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    Review of THE PRINCESS AND THE PIRATES by John Maddox Roberts


    Thomas Dunne, St. Martin's Minotaur, May 2005

    After two terms as Aedile, Decius Caecilius Metellus is ready to stand for praetor--a government job with the clout to merit a substantial pro-praetorship and give Decius a chance to pay off some of his debts. Instead, the senate sends him to Cyprus to root out the pirates that, years after Pompey last subdued them, are making a comeback in the eastern Mediterranean. In Cyprus, Decius finds Roman bureaucrats, busy looting the country, Greek merchants seeking their fortunes, a temple that claims to be the birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite herself, and a woman who enjoys sensual delights just a little too much. Also, the Princess Cleopatra--who just happens to have the best warship in the area.

    It doesn't take long for Decius to realize that the pirates have help from someone important in Cyprus, but when the governor is killed, Decius realizes that the conspiracy reaches higher into the Roman circles than he had imagined. Still, it's only when his wife and his friend Milo arrive that Decius finally puts things together. Of course, staying alive long enough to present the evidence is the real trick.

    Author John Maddox Roberts (see more reviews of novels by Roberts) spins an intriguing and fascinating tale of the dying days of Republican Rome. Caesar is in Gaul, Pompey is still powerful but a declining light, and the traditional Roman oligarchs still scheme and play their political games while the 'new men' secure wealth by trade and by exploiting the conquered and allied people. Egypt remains the huge prize, so rich that any Roman general to take it becomes the de-facto favorite as the ruler of the world.

    Roberts' Decius makes a fine protagonist with his combination of Roman virtues and unRoman introspection--along with a decided weakness for wine and attraction toward women who aren't his wife. Cleopatra, the Princess in the book's title, is still young, but shows flashes of the energy that twice bring her close to becoming co-ruler of the known world. THE PRINCESS AND THE PIRATES is an enjoyable find for anyone who appreciates historical mysteries.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 8/14/05

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