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The Blood of Caesar: A Second Case from the…

The Blood of Caesar: A Second Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger

by Albert A. Bell, Jr.

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Notebooks of Pliny the Younger (2)

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324527,314 (3.67)5
Pliny the Younger and Tacitus have another mystery to solve - actually, layers of mysteries. During dinner at the emperor Domitian's palace, a workman is discovered dead in the archives.



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This is a "different" Roman mystery series, more intellectual and less wise-cracking than some of the others, but well worth reading. The historical context is vividly presented as a coherent whole, and is essential to the story. The central character is likeable and interesting, and other characters emerge as individuals. The mystery -- or mysteries, more properly, since several of them wind together -- is compelling, and kept me turning the pages right up to the end. A satisfying mystery in a satisfying series, along with a short trip back to ancient Rome. ( )
  annbury | Feb 1, 2018 |
I spotted The Blood of Caesar while I was searching for another author at my local library and checked it out. Pliny the Younger isn't as funny or resourceful as Lindsey Davis' Marcus Didius Falco, but he's not bad. I do feel sorry for him because his late uncle/adoptive father Piny the Elder was so famous. He hasn't even read all of his uncle's Natural History, which puts him at a disadvantage when others wish to discuss it with him.

His friend, Cornelius Tacitus, loves history, so he can take up the slack when Pliny doesn't know something. On the other hand, Tacitus needs to learn when to keep his mouth shut (or his voice way down).

Except for the final chapter, this book takes place during the summer of 83 A.D., so Domitian is the Princeps (the title 'Emperor' is not yet in use). Domitan wants Pliny and Tacitus to find out more about something mentioned in an old letter of Agrippina the Younger to her son, the infamous Nero. I drew on my memory of I, Claudius (mini-series and novel) to help me keep track of who was who since I was trying to stay away from my laptop and didn't think to use Mom's old volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

There were plenty of times I wanted to shake Pliny for not figuring out things that an experienced mystery reader will catch on to sooner, but it was still good reading.

I very much enjoyed the history lessons passed along with the mystery and action. There is a chronology from the birth of Agrippina the Younger to the reign of Domitian on page 253. The book's Glossary of Terms covers pages 254-257. I also give a thumbs up to reprinting old illustrations. The ones by William Martin Johnson are beautiful and the ones by Thomas Hope are useful.

By the way, the trick Naomi uses near the end of chapter 8 comes from chapter 31 of the Biblical book of Genesis. ( )
  JalenV | Nov 29, 2015 |
Another delightful Pliny the Younger mystery from the pen of Albert A. Bell. Mr. Bell has given us a more intriguing mystery than in his debut Pliny novel. In this one, Pliny, with the aid of his faithful friend Tacitus, are asked by the Emperor Domitian, to find the unexpurgated memoirs of Agrippina, for some nefarious purpose of Domitian's. Pliny does demonstrate to the emperor his skill in nosing out how the murder of a slave, a mason and plasterer, was probably accomplished. As a first step in his search for the missing scrolls, Pliny visits an old philosopher with ties to the imperial family and meets there a woman of mysterious background, Cornelia, whom he brings to his home at the behest of the philosopher. His and Tacitus' search leads them to the reason for the slave's death; a hunt underneath the Baths of Titus for a certain fresco; a dinner party at Tacitus' home at which he meets Tacitus' father-in-law, the famous governor Agricola of Britannia, who later gives great help in solving the mystery.

Pliny was as engaging as in the first novel and I like it that he is not perfect; he sometimes makes mistakes. I liked that Pliny's mother, Lady Plinia, was so important here. Both she and Cornelia were strong women and likeable. The author does introduce bits of history or Roman customs. Also in this case, several characters were Jewish and they explained about their funeral customs. Though the author is sometimes too obvious in how he inserts history, these books are a pleasant way to learn a little factual information. I liked the part demonstrating the workings of the Roman client-patron relationship. Pliny has done favors for a jeweler; in turn, the jeweler makes a beautiful necklace for Cornelia to wear to Tacitus'. I also liked the little line drawings that adorned practically every page.

I plan to continue with this series. I couldn't put this novel down. ( )
  janerawoof | Mar 10, 2014 |
Pliny and Tacitus have been invited to dinner and are approaching Domitian's palace with some trepidation. Josephus, one of the other guests, receives word that a body has been found in the library. Pliny correctly deduces that the dead man died elsewhere and his body was moved to the library. Impressed that Pliny had passed the test, Domitian asks him to track down a missing copy of Agrippina the Younger's memoirs with possibly explosive contents not found in other copies.

An intriguing and suspenseful mystery, somewhat spoiled by the fact that no genealogical tables are provided, which makes the core puzzle very difficult, if not impossible, to understand. I found key information difficult to follow even with a family tree. I suspect someone not familiar with the Julio-Claudians would be completely lost. It has to be said that Pliny really isn't very bright and fails to make some deductions until they have been obvious to the reader for several chapters. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Jun 18, 2012 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bell, Albert A., Jr.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Geary, JudithDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hope, ThomasIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, William MartinIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nemcosky, Ann ThompsonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The first to die under the new regime was the proconsul of Asia, Marcus Junius Silanus.  His death was treacherously contrived by Agrippina, without Nero's knowledge.  She was not provoked by Silanus' ferocity of temper.  He was lazy, and previous rulers had despised him ... But gossip in the streets widely suggested that Nero, who was hardly more than a boy and had come to power only as the result of a crime was less fit to rule than a mature, blameless aristocrat who, like Nero, was descended from the Caesars.  For Silanus was a great-great-grandson of the deified Augustus--and this still mattered a great deal (italics added)

Tacitus, Annals 13.1
For my aunt Betty,

in appreciation of her support and encouragement.
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"This feels like a trap." my friend Tacitus said, putting his hand on my arm.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Ordered by Emperor Domitian to search for blood heirs to the Emperor Augustus, Pliny and Tacitus seek solutions to layers of mysteries.  Why is a humble workman;s death important to the ruler of Rome, and what connects him to Pliny's household?  How do Domitian's suspicions relate to the cousin of Pliny's old friend and mentor?   Like a sinister red line slashed through a carefully prepared manuscript, the legacy of Augustus marks the connections.

Will the answers save the peace of Rome, or mark its doom?   [from the cover]

Pliny the Younger and Tacitus have another mystery to solve - actually layers of mysteries. During dinner at the emperor Domitian's palace, a workman is discovered dead in the archives. Why is this humble man's death important to the ruler of Rome? Domitian assigns Pliny to uncover references to an unknown heir of Augustus Caesar in a memoir of Nero's mother. Why does Domitian suspect his own copy of the memoir is incomplete? And how does his suspicion relate to the niece of Pliny's old friend and mentor? Is Tacitus' father-in-law Agricola a villain or a potential victim? Like a sinister red line slashed through a carefully prepared manuscript, the legacy of the great Augustus marks the connections to slaves of Pliny's own household. Pliny and Tacitus must descend to the Stygian underworld of Nero's buried "golden house" to find answers. Will the answers save the peace of Rome, or mark its doom?  [Amazon product description 8/29/2010]
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