Archive for 'Finnis, Jane'
Today’s featured author is Jane Finnis. Jane is the author of the Aurelia Marcella series set in first-century Roman Britain. It tells of life (and death) in the turbulent province of Britannia, on the very edge of the Roman Empire. I loved the most recent book, A BITTER CHILL, and you can read my review here.
In A BITTER CHILL, innkeeper Aurelia Marcella and her sister Albia still run their prosperous mansio on the road to York, and face the pleasures and perils of being Roman settlers in a new province, where the native Britons are not as docile as their imperial conquerors could wish. In the depths of winter, just when the sisters are hoping for a restful time without guests, their brother brings bad news of possible disgrace for the family. Then a party of rich and quarrelsome travellers arrive to stay, bringing violence and death. There are disputes over an unsuitable marriage and a will, and the sisters find themselves under suspicion of murder. Snow, floods, and a trip to the raw garrison town of Eburacum (York) are just some of the dangers they face, as they try to clear their family name and track down the killer…
GET OUT OR DIE is set in Roman Britain in 91 AD which is the raw frontier province of Britannia, a troublesome part of the mighty Empire ruled by Domitian Caesar. Though it is almost fifty years since the legions invaded, many native tribes still hate their conquerors and seize any chance to harass the Roman settlers who are flocking in to colonise the new province. Tension is especially high in the north, where Aurelia Marcella, a young innkeeper from Italy, runs the Oak Tree Mansio on the road to York. She says it is the best guest-house in northern Britannia, but then she would say that, wouldn’t she?
A string of savage murders disrupts her peaceful life, and she and her Roman friends find themselves under attack from a secret native war-band, the Shadow-men, whose aim is to drive all Romans out. A traveller, Quintus, is nearly killed close to the mansio, and he and Aurelia must track down the rebel warriors and their mysterious masked leader. Their investigations bring them into personal danger from ruthless killers and devious deceivers. Can they find and destroy the murderers before their campaign of terror turns into open rebellion, so that all Romans must get out or die?
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I love history, and I am probably predisposed to like any historical mysteries. But A Bitter Chill is different from other books of this ilk in that it is more mystery than history. Which is not necessarily bad, just different.
Those of you who have read historical mysteries have probably come to expect, as I have, the aside moments included by the author to explain how the water wheel, primitive toilet, or butter churn works. But Finnis has done away with that and just dropped us down in 95 A.D. in Roman controlled Britannia (near York in present day England). And while you may miss the detailed descriptions of things and processes from that time, this technique does make for a smoother and better story.
A Bitter Chill centers around two sisters, Aurelia and Albia, who run a mansio (an inn for travelers) with occasional help from their brother, Lucius. The sisters have their hands full when important and demanding guests arrive unexpectedly at the mansio while Lucius is off on some important but secret task. Add in a little extortion, kidnapping, slave trading, Roman politics, a disrupted engagement, and, of course, murder, and you have a complex and enjoyable book.
And yes, along the way you do learn some things about life in that distant era. For those of you who would like additional information about the time, Finnis has kindly included some suggested reading from both ancient and modern authors. This includes, interestingly enough, a cookbook, which I found myself wanting. The book is set during the holiday Saturnalia and features â€œholiday foodsâ€ which sound really good. But you also find yourself wondering what they eat when it isnâ€™t a holiday.
Favorite character? The slave Margarita. She is interesting because of her unusual situation â€“ a beautiful slave with a child to protect has to keep a lot of balls in the air to keep everyone happy. Did I guess it? No. Will I read another? Yes.
Mystery Book Reviews by Liz at http://reviewedbyliz.com Â©2007