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Last Seen in Massilia by Steven Saylor
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In Last Seen in Massilia, the eighth book in the Sub Roma series by Steven Saylor, our hero Gordianus the Finder has traveled with his strong son-in-law Davus to Massilia (present-day Marseille) because he's received a note telling him that his son Meto died there and, being the Finder that he is, he has to learn the truth. As he arrives in Massilia, the place is under seige by Caesar's Roman forces because the city-state had refused him entry some time earlier and instead thrown in their lot with Pompey, Caesar's rival for what will become the Roman Empire. The city has its own scapegoat, pampered until required to take on the sins of the people and sacrifice himself, and that individual takes in Gordianus and Davos mainly to have someone to talk to (as the citizens of the city shun the scapegoat even as they rely upon him). But there are machinations within machinations in the city, and when Gordianus and his companions witness a death on a sacred rock, and disagree as to whether they've seen a murder or a suicide, Gordianus must follow his nature and investigate - and perhaps, if he isn't killed, he'll discover what has happened to Meto as well.... I actually began reading A Mist of Prophecies, the ninth book in the series (which I picked up at a used mystery bookstore while on vacation in Victoria, B.C.), but soon realized I needed to know what had happened in this book to make sense of that one; yay for Kindle that makes all books instantly possible! But the story itself is engrossing, the characters are as always very well-drawn and, well, as a history geek I have to say one of my favourite parts of Saylor's books is reading his end notes, where he cites the actual historical sources that underpin his series. If you don't know the series already, you can start here if you like - just don't go to Mist until you've read this one! Recommended! ( )
  thefirstalicat | Mar 31, 2015 |
With this episode in the continuing saga of Gordianus the Finder, our hero leaves the mundane plane of every day existence and gains the rarified status of a super-hero. I say this as in this novel Gordianus survives several dangerous escapades, by rather incredulous means, escapades which would land any ordinary person (not a super-hero) in their urn.

The story: Gordianus, on hearing of the death of his son Meto, in the Greek colony of Massilia, travels to the city to see for himself just what is going on. He finds Massilia besieged by Caesar's troops, but he manages to enter the city (a tale in itself), and then meets an amazing variety of people, including the arch Roman exiles Verres and Milo. Adventures, death, gainful employment, and murder ensue. At novel's end father and son are reunited, but Gordianus disgusted by the intrigue and deception in his son's life as a follower of Caesar, renounces Meto.

As with every Saylor, a bright and detailed account of life in the ancient world is presented. Massilia itself is shown warts and all, and its customs revealed to our gaze, including that of the "scapegoat". One criticism, these later Gordianus novels suffer from being part of a series. They do not stand on their own as well as they should, however, this is the inevitable effect of a long running series. ( )
  Traveller1 | Mar 30, 2013 |
No sooner has Gordianus returned to Rome with his son-in-law to his loving family that he receives an unsigned note that his son, Meto, had been killed. Meto had gone to Massilia (present day Marseilles). Had he gone as a spy for Caesar or had he left Caesar?

With his son-in-law, Davus, he goes to Massilia to find Caesar's troops laying siege to the fortified city. Caesar himself has gone to Spain. As in the previous book, the reader is given a front row seat to all of the events as described by the engineer, Vitruvius himself. Vital to Gordianus's plan is the information of a tunnel being dug under the city walls. Gordianus manages to insinuate Davus and himself into the troops that will emerge from the tunnel, however, the tunnel comes out under a reservoir. Gordianus and Davus miraculously survive and find themselves inside the city and rescued by an unlikely helper, the scapegoat, Hieronymus.

Saylor continues to enmesh the reader in the lives of Gordianus and his family as they carefully wind their ways through the treacherous times in 40s BC Rome. ( )
  mamzel | Apr 1, 2012 |
I think this was one of Saylor's better mysteries...lots of mistaken ideas/identities and twists at the end. Also a neat look into Massilia (modern Marseilles) at the time of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey. Biggest twist concerns Gordianus' relationship with Meto. ( )
  saholc | Jun 30, 2011 |
Another good one! The ending was definitely a surprise as I never thought Gordianus would do that, but then again, Meto was being pretty thoughtless. While I wasn't thrilled about the fact that this book does not take place in Rome, it still was a great read. Again, the ending really did it for me. I love shocking endings. ( )
  yari20 | Aug 27, 2009 |
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Epigraph
Ubi tu es qui colere mores Massiliensis postulas?
Nunc tu si uis subigitare me, probast occasio.

- Plautus, Casina (963-964)
Dedication
For my Sister , Gwyn
THIS BOOK
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"Madness!" I muttered.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312977875, Mass Market Paperback)

In this mystery set in Marseilles in 49 B.C., master detective Gordianus the Finder is on a personal quest to learn the truth about his missing son, Meto. Plunged into the midst of the bloody Roman civil war, the well-connected Gordianus and his son-in-law Davus survive adventure after adventure as they penetrate the Gaulic city Massilia, which is walled against Roman invasion. From the first pages, author Steven Saylor is on sure ground with his distinguished protagonist. Gordianus's careful, thoughtful musings are infused with real pathos as he seeks out information about the lost adoptive son whom, he has been informed, is dead. There is some speculation that Meto betrayed Caesar and that death was his punishment. Lacking a corpse, Gordianus cannot bring himself to believe that Meto is really dead.

Indeed, bonds between fathers and children--their betrayals, promises, and legacies--play a key role in the twisting plot of Last Seen in Massilia. Literally the title refers to Meto, but the motif extends to other key characters as well. Apollonides, the imperious ruler of Massilia, has a peculiar bond with his horribly deformed daughter. And the city's "scapegoat" Hieronymus lives out the legacy of his parents' illegal double suicide by being the human repositor of Massilia's collective sins. He is expected to hurl himself from Sacrifice Rock to appease vengeful gods.

Sacrifice Rock is central to the book, the site of a tussle between man and woman that ends, provocatively, in the woman's death. Was it suicide or murder? The three witnesses--Gordianus, Davus, and Hieronymus--are sharply divided on exactly what they saw. Gordianus pursues the truth of this mystery almost as a diversion from the more compelling mystery of his son's weird disappearance.

Fans of Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series, of which Last Seen in Massilia is the eighth installment, will be pleased by the author's consistent tone. Saylor has proven that he knows how to season a good plot with lively historical details, and this book is perhaps even more gratifying than previous installments. --Kathi Inman Berens

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:44 -0400)

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