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The Water Thief by Ben Pastor

The Water Thief (2007)

by Ben Pastor

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Aelius Spartianus Mysteries (1)

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633188,983 (2.94)5



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"I, Aelius Spartianus, grew up in foreign barracks and am nobody. I will build no palace, but am privileged to write the history of the men who did, and whose work this magnificent City is". So writes Aelius Spartianus, high-ranking Roman army officer, scholar and historian in his Traveller's Notes, upon entering Rome, in 304AD, reign of Diocletian. I really enjoyed this book with its unusual setting, unusual protagonist, and very good mystery! As Aelius himself muses at one point: he doesn't fit the mold of others' idea of a soldier. I recommend this novel very highly!

At the behest of Diocletian, Aelius is investigating the life of Hadrian and the drowning death of Hadrian's boy-favorite, Antinous. Was the death murder, suicide, or accident? This mystery includes the author's speculation on this and on the location of Antinous' grave. First, Aelius travels to Egypt to investigate: Antinous had drowned in the Nile. After an army supplier-friend of Aelius finds a letter purportedly written by Hadrian, he and his freedman, with links to Aelius, die in suspicious circumstances. Aelius next travels to Rome, where an expert in all things Egyptian, is to help him. That man, Soter, is murdered. Concurrent arson is intended to cover up Soter's murder. A former member of Intelligence, a blind veteran recommended to Aelius by a fellow Roman officer in Egypt, renders help to Aelius in his investigation. Aelius knows someone is after him, but who? Aelius survives several attacks on his person. More bodies pile up, all tied to Aelius...

Written beautifully and flowingly, there were many twists and turns in this well plotted novel. The author took one name in Cassius Dio, the classical historian, and created a believable character! I liked that Aelius used his brain in solving the mysteries, not only physical force against enemies. The author gave a real sense of Egypt and of Rome, in her vivid descriptions. I couldn't connect with Aelius at first; he seemed too wooden, too much of an automaton. After an event in Egypt triggered the remembrance of a boyhood experience and he displayed some feeling, he began to thaw out and become more human. I liked the device of letter-writing between him and the emperor. I also enjoyed 'peeking over his shoulder' at his notes he took at each stage of the investigation. After such a fantastic build-up, the denouement was disappointing and to me illogical, but the author's explanation for Antinous' death and whereabouts of his resting place was completely plausible. I do want to read the others in the series. Only one other:The Fire Waker: An Aelius Spartianus Mystery is in English; the other two are in Italian. As of this date I'm not aware of any English translations. As a college teacher, Ms. Pastor must have researched the background thoroughly. Lack of a bibliography and 'Author's Note' separating fact from fiction were glaring oversights, though. ( )
  janerawoof | Oct 13, 2014 |
Hum... The book deals with an interesting period with a good description of how it would be like to live in the 4th century. The storyline is not dull as often happens, but I did not find it so engaging, the "mistery" part was slow and looked like going nowhere.

It would be an average read if you like the genre, but I would not suggest people not "into it" to read this first. ( )
  Panairjdde | Jan 26, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ben Pastorprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bonini, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In 304 c.e. Aelius Spartianus, officer and historian at the court of Diocletian in Dalmatia, is writing the biographies of past Roman rulers, including Hadrian, who has been dead for nearly 175 years. Aelius's particular charge is to investigate the unsolved mystery of the drowning death in the Nile of Hadrian's favorite, young Antinous.… (more)

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