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The House of the Vestals by Steven Saylor
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This is a reasonably good and varied collection of mystery short stories set in Rome during the years 80 BC to 72 BC. For those who have read any of Steven Saylor's Roma sub rosa series of novels, these stories all fall into the time period following the first novel in the series, Roman Blood. Of the 9 short stories, all but one appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in the years 1993-1995. My knowledge of Roman history is pretty weak, and stories like these give me good glimpses into the times. I've only read two of Saylor's novels before this, and I enjoy learning the history within the stories and I plan on reading more of them. ( )
  RBeffa | Jun 29, 2012 |
Written out of chronological order, these stories fill in a gap between Roman Blood and Catilina's Riddle. Among the stories the reader learns about the relationship between Gordianus and his Egyptian slave, Bethesda, and his adopted son, Eco. Each story gives the reader a glimpse into life in ancient Rome. One takes place during the Saturnalian celebration where slaves and masters swap positions. Another story talks about the time when Julius Caesar was abducted by pirates. Another shows the reader how fearful and superstitious Romans were in regards to cats. Yet another describes bee keeping and the last gives us a glimpse into the world of the Vestal Virgins. Each time Gordianus is given, or comes across a mystery to solve. ( )
  mamzel | Mar 2, 2012 |
Excellent string of little stories ( )
  twitham | Feb 12, 2010 |
In The House of the Vestals, Rome’s best finder Gordianus is back in a series of short stories full of political intrigue, murder, theft, and mystery. Set in between the novels Roman Blood and Arms of Nemesis, The House of the Vestals update readers on what Gordianus has been up to in the years that pass between the two books.

In Death Wears a Mask, Gordianus tracks a murderer who targeted an actor in between play scenes. Bethesda tells the story of a King’s missing treasure in The Tale of the Treasure House. Rich Patrician Lucius Claudius, who soon becomes a close friend of Gordianus, first comes to him with a mystery about a will, a supposed dead young man, and a sighting of the supposedly dead man in A Will is a Way. The Lemures is about two separate households plagued with spirits of the dead, which Gordianus must figure out even as he has his own wits scared out of him. Gordianus’ life is once again put in danger when he is sent to ransom a kidnapped young boy from pirates in Little Caesar and the Pirates. The Disappearance of the Saturnalia Silver once again involves Lucius Claudius and his missing Saturnalia gifts-- this one is solved by Bethesda. In an attempt to get away from the chaos of the city, Lucius Claudius and Gordianus escape to the country in King Bee and Honey, but death and mystery follows. To entertain Lucius Claudius, Gordianus tells him the story of The Alexandian Cat and how he saved the life of a fellow Roman in Egypt after the murder of a sacred cat. Finally, in the namesake story, The House of the Vestals, Gordianus must help Cicero by solving a murder that happened in one of the most sacred buildings of Rome.

I was very eager to read this book because Roman Blood is such a good book and now one of my favorites. When I got The House of the Vestals, I didn’t know it was a novel of short stories until I opened it up. Each story is short enough that it is to the point with no tangents or intertwining plotlines to stray from the one major plot focus, the mystery. Novels can get complex because they require a lot of build up and climax, as well as a lot of details, but short stories need very little of any of that and can get to the point quickly. I like short stories because they are like instant gratification, plus you can sit down and read one in between other things. Sometimes my attention span needs a break.

There are also some good character developments within the short stories. First, there is the introduction of Lucius Claudius, a new character. Second, we get to see how Gordianus and Eco are progressing in their relationship, which is almost father and son. Third, the story Little Caesar and the Pirates tells of how Gordianus got his bodyguard Belbo. And fourth, Bethesda once again shows herself to be more than a mere slave-- indeed, she is quickly showing herself to be the equal of Gordianus and very perceptive. All in all, I just really like Gordianus-- he is realistic, witty, imperfect, and practical. Like Roman Blood, the history is rich and subtle, not shoving facts in your face so much as using them for setting but teaching you about the time nonetheless. If you like short stories and Roman mystery, there is no way that you won’t like The House of the Vestals. ( )
1 vote morbidromantic | Jul 9, 2009 |
A collection of short stories set between the events of "Roman Blood" and "Arms of Nemesis". Some of the stories come from historical events and references, some are pure fiction.

I do like the recurring subsidiary character Lucius Claudius. Some real-life characters who will no doubt play a big role in some of the novels to come put in an appearance in the title story (the last one in the book). ( )
  Robertgreaves | Feb 17, 2009 |
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To three women of mystery
whose inspiration helped create these stories:
Janet Hutchings, Hildegarde Withers, and
(in memoriam) Lillian de la Torre;
one of them (at least) is a fictional character -
though which, I am not quite sure...
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"Eco," I said, "do you mean to tell me that you have never seen a play?"
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Book description
CONTENTS: Death wears a mask (15-16 September 80 BCE) -- Tale of the Treasure House (summer 80 BCE) -- A Will is a Way (18-28 May 78 BCE) -- The Lemures (October 78 BCE) -- Little Caesar and the Pirates (spring-August 77 BCE) -- The Disappearance of the Saturnalia Silver (December 77 BCE) -- King Bee and Honey (late April 76 BCE) -- The Alexandrian Cat (takes place 90 BCE, told summer 74 BCE) -- The House of the Vestals (spring 73 BCE).

Book includes a chronology of Gordianus the Finder stories published at the time.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312964528, Mass Market Paperback)

It is Ancient Rome, and Gordianus the Finder has a knack for finding trouble. Stalking about the city's twisting trails looking for clues and finding bodies, Gordianus has had his share of misadventure with nobles and slaves alike. Known to many as the one man in the ancient world who can both keep a secret and uncover one, Gordianus has stories to tell.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:39 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Nine crime stories featuring Gordianus the Finder, a detective in ancient Rome who marries his slave. Part mystery, part a social history of the period from the end of Sulla's dictatorship to the Spartacan slave revolt.

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