Since Mr Blake is notoriously disinclined to blow his own trumpet and bang his own drum, I feel a compelling obligation to do so for him. As chance may have it, you can buy any of his books with just two clicks by following the links from the right sidebar of this Blog. SIG
Conspiracies of Rome (Aelric) (Paperback) You are there in Rome in the early 600’s. Stop in for dinner at the genteel poverty of inbred Senator so and so, the stinky sewer outside is blocked up from decades of neglect, the bread is stamped with the logo of Pope Boniface, the founder of this feast. Rome’s few thousand residents mostly depend on this bread dole. Across town the Panthion is being converted into a church. Incense is coming to town for this consecration.
This is the first novel for the author. His setting, Italy a generation after Justinian’s disasterous reconquest, is an era few know anything about. I got it because I am fairly familiar with the era but I didn’t expect much. Probably a shallow mystery, easily figured out, with a bleary setting that could just almost as easily be say New York in 1980. I was pleasantly surprized, Conspiracies of Rome is a mystery that kept me guessing right to the end. The important part for me, the setting, is accurate. I reviewed my Gibbon and Procopius to make sure.
Can this be a first novel? This guy must be smart. It even has a few (trumpets please) underlying themes, a depth. The themes are more or less about slavery, greed, redemption and religion and are not pushed too hard. Ok forget the trumpets, this isn’t Moby Dick or Vanity Fair. Moving on the author didn’t just get the crumbling city right but also on a deeper level the characters think and react like people would in that time and place not modern people dumped in. So I say come on and read this one.