Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Curse-Maker -Kelli Stanley

The Curse-Maker
Kelli Stanley
Minotaur, Feb 1 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312654191

In the latter half of the first century, the Roman Governor of Britannia Agricola's physician Arcturus goes on a needed vacation. However, the thirtyish Arcturus is called back to work rather quickly when a homicide occurs; as his other job is investigating crimes that might impact his employer.

Someone strangled scribe Rufus Bibax, who mostly wrote down curses. His corpse was found floating in in a reservoir in Aquae Suli. Inside the victim’s mouth is a piece of lead etched with the inscription Ultor (the Avenger). Arcturus quickly learns of other unsolved recent murders and soon more people die by what the physician begins to believe is a second killer. The cases seem to focus on a nearby mine, but who the Avenger or Avengers are remain unsolved.

The second Ancient Britannia mystery (see Nox Dormeinda) is a superb whodunit that provides readers with insight into the use of curses, apparently a thriving business of the times. The engaging investigation is fast-paced once Arcturus is on the case or as he fears and curses cases; he understands two killers is not twice the fun. Armchair travelers will enjoy feeling a sense of being in first century Roman Britain with Arcturus as the tour guide.

Harriet Klausner

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