Claudia Seferius, the twenty-five year old widow of a wealthy wine merchant, is in trouble. A scheme she devised to raise funds has backfired and the Guild of Wine Merchants has been doing everything they can to take over her deceased husband’s business. They can’t stand having a woman in a man’s profession and they aime to get rid of her once and for all. Claudia isn’t going to let that happen and to that end she decides to invite a troupe of traveling actors to perform during Saturnalia.
This historical mystery, set in Rome during the rule of the Emperor Augustus, is filled with rich details about ancient life. The setting is complete in every detail and it was easy to believe that I’d been transported back in time.
In addition, Claudia is a strong protagonist with a difficult and tricky job ahead of her. She is determined to outwit the guild. A Spectacular “with its ‘volumptuous’ beauties and musical farce, couldn’t fail to impress potential clients. And with four days of public holiday, that was a lot of clients Claudia could squeeze in to be impressed.” Caspar and his troupe of strolling players is just what she needs. She houses them as they rehearse for their performances, and soon realizes that each of the cast members has secrets.
The plot is intricate and riveting. In addition to the secrets held by the strolling players, there is a rapist, the famous Halcyon rapist, on the loose and Marcus Cornelius Orbilio, the sole member of the aristocracy attached to the Security Police, is upset, not only because of the new rapes, but also because he’d convicted and executed the Halcyon rapist last year. Had he executed the wrong man?
The mysteries abound, from minor to really terrifying ones, and the suspense keeps building. There are a number of really strong supporting characters to add depth to the story, and I found Second Act to be a real page turner.
Mystery fans, especially those who love historical mysteries, are sure to enjoy this wonderful story, the ninth in a series. And I for one plan to search out the first eight as I await what I hope will be the next novels staring Claudia Seferius.
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