Arms of Nemesis

Arms of Nemesis - Steven Saylor I have read "Roman Blood" (the first in Saylor's series) sometime in the distant past, so Gordianus the Finder and his (former slave) wife and adopted son were vaguely familiar to me, but it was nice to rediscover them.

Enjoyed this mystery; I had the culprit picked out as "probable" fairly early on, using nothing more than the usually reliable 'unsympathetic-and-slightly-underdeveloped' criterion. Saylor knows how to bring in his dramatic events and eerie settings. A big and for some time almost empty aristocratic house in the rich bay area; the nearby thermal feature (interpreted as the gates to hell, genuinely or ironically, at this time); and the cave of the Sybil of Cumae; not to mention a truly heartbreaking look at the bowels of a galley ship: all of these make memorable appearances.

The ruling theme of the novel is slavery (Spartacus' rebellion hovers in the background), and how its political and financial expedience is at the terrible expense of human feeling and human aspiration, not to mention human life. We have several couples, Gordianus and Bethesda being one of them, to illustrate possible outcomes of love between free and slave. Fortune is fickle, and not all the good characters end happily.