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A Song for Nero (2003)

by Thomas Holt

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1017204,104 (3.78)9
History tells us that in 69 AD, Nero fled his palace in Rome, stabbed himself in the throat with a pen, and was trampled to death by horses in a muddy ditch. But here's another possibility: Nero did not die in that ditch, but somebody who looked very much like him did. This gives Nero the opportunity to start a new life in pursuit of his first love--music. But Nero is being pursued by two people who have reason to suspect he is still alive--one wants him dead, the other is a passionate fan of his dreadful music and wants his genius recognized.… (more)

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» See also 9 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Nero didn't actually commit suicide, his body double was left for his enemies to find while Nero went on the run with his body double's brother, a rather unsuccessful petty thief and con man. They roam through the Empire trying to keep one step ahead of the authorities and gangsters.

A fun ride with an unexpectedly moving ending. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Dec 27, 2020 |
N.B. I loved this a lot and would probably give it 4.5 stars, but, without spoilers, the end was extremely detrimental to my enjoyment. ( )
  elucubrare | Feb 9, 2018 |
The Emperor Nero does not commit suicide, but instead escapes with a Greek con man and spends 10 years in running from various people who want him dead. Funnier than it sounds.
  ritaer | May 10, 2015 |
as with all Holt novels you learn whilst you laugh - felt this one was a little over long but still highly readable ( )
  Levitron | Jul 15, 2011 |
This is the second of Holt's "historical" novels I've read - the first was Meadowland - and I have to say, I vastly prefer them to his more usual fare.

The concept is ludicrous but simple - Nero doesn't die when he's deposed; he fakes his own death, and goes on the run with a common thief. The two eke out a living as con-artists, relying on the safe assumption that most people don't know quite what the emperor looks like, and those who do will pass it off as coincidence. There's a forgettable plot ticking over in the background - there's a buried treasure they're trying to find, etc - but, really, it's just two men wandering around the underbelly of the Roman Empire, living in each other's back pockets, and swearing blind they can't stand each other. You get the idea. It's surprisingly similar to Meadowland, in fact - the same sort of dynamic, two mismatched characters telling a narrative - though with only one narrative voice, not two.

It's well-written and well-balanced, funny without tipping into the forced surreality he normally works with. There are only one or two moments where his Rome really seems silly - but as one of those is a sustained rant about people treating Virgil's Georgics as a farming handbook, you can't really complain.
  generalising | Jul 28, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Holtprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rostant, LarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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History tells us that in 69 AD, Nero fled his palace in Rome, stabbed himself in the throat with a pen, and was trampled to death by horses in a muddy ditch. But here's another possibility: Nero did not die in that ditch, but somebody who looked very much like him did. This gives Nero the opportunity to start a new life in pursuit of his first love--music. But Nero is being pursued by two people who have reason to suspect he is still alive--one wants him dead, the other is a passionate fan of his dreadful music and wants his genius recognized.

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A thriller exploring the possibility that Nero survived beyond the date he was believed to have died.
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