My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Promoted to a tribune of the Sixth Legion, Lucius Aurelius’s task is to quell a war in Galilee that has already claimed the lives of the Emperor’s foot soldiers. But the scene of the alleged slaughter turns up only a peaceful settlement of farmers, leaving the suspicious Lucius to question why has he been sent on such a futile mission…
I really enjoyed this book about young tribune Lucius Aurelius, a first century Roman whose personal guiding star is honor. Unfortunately for Lucius, few of his superiors have that same value and the ones who do are not very good at guarding their backs against their ambitious counterparts. Weaving his way through greed and corruption while trying to unravel a mystery which constantly has just one more thread to a larger story, Lucius must feel his way to the truth. His family physician, a small boy, and a corps of Gallic cavalry are on his side but that doesn’t seem like enough when the odds are stacked against him. There are a couple of very nice twists in the story which I foresaw only a few pages ahead of Larkin’s explication.
This is the first of Patrick Larkin’s books that I’ve read. He has written a string of political thrillers from the looks of his body of work and you can see that history in this lean, tautly driven story. I was often surprised by the direction the plot took. The only lack of surprise was when our hero finds himself in Judea meeting a few recognizable characters, albeit often briefly. I enjoyed those encounters, especially since Larkin made them enough his own that I gradually forgot to think of a Biblical association.
Sometimes Larkin’s background as a thriller author shows in other ways such as the occasional lack of character development. For example, in the case of a romantic encounter, the subsequent attachment seems all out of proportion, as does the guilty response. A little more depth would have been welcome.
These things aside, I did enjoy reading the book which kept my undivided attention until I finished it. That is no mean feat. I was glad to see a chapter of the sequel at the end of the e-book because I had grown fond of Lucius Aurelius and would like to read more of his adventures.
This review was revised because of a significant change made to part of the book, which is not reflected in the print version. I would give the print version 3 stars because of a graphic sexual encounter.