Libertus The Pavement-Maker: Dark Omens

The Fiction Addiction
Dark Omens(cover art from the publisher)

I've read most -- but not all  -- of this series, so when I find one I haven't gotten to read yet, it's like a little visit with my old friend Libertus. Let's see what Libertus and faithful Gwellia are up to! What trouble has patron Marcus set him up for this time?

In Dark Omens, Libertus is hired to re-tile an entryway. The previous images of a ship at sea was once a symbol of the husband's shipping and trading  profession, but now his widow considers this image unlucky. The widow isn't the client, though, it's her former brother-in-law who now plans to marry her. Libertus is immediately intrigued by the situation, but it's all aboveboard.  A Roman woman needed a male legal guardian, usually someone in her family, and that guardian would decide who she married (or re-married),  and there's no reason he couldn't choose himself for her future husband and get all her late husband's property too.

I always enjoy when the story relies on Roman life and customs. The Vestal Vanishes is another Libertus mystery that uses Roman customs and law really well as part of the premise. In that one, the story hinges on a retiring Vestal Virgin, who's completed her 30 years at the temple, and can -- if she wants -- go on to marry and live a secular life.

A Prisoner of Privilege uses Roman customs so well, too. Over the course of Libertus' life, he doesn't just lay pavements and solve mysteries, he's also moving up in Roman society, which means fudging the property requirements to be eligible for duties he doesn't particularly want. And The Price of Freedom talks about the rules and customs around provincial tax-collecting, besides the mystery to solve.

I have to admit that I like the SPQR series or Marcus Corvinus slightly more, because I'm much more interested in the action in Rome than out in the provinces. Libertus is a Celtic workman in Roman-occupied Britain, which is fine and all,  but it's not quite backstabbing in the Forum, is it? Still, I enjoy how the stories often include warm scenes back at the roundhouse.

For more Roman fiction, there's the rest of the Libertus series, as well as Feast of Sorrow, The Throne of Caesar, and  Brides of Rome.

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