Thursday, 14 January 2010

Rome: The Emperor's Spy by M C Scott

As a child in the first century AD, Sebastos Abdes Pantera, son of a Roman auxiliary soldier, witnesses an anti-Roman Judean rebel being taken alive from a tomb in Jerusalem. Decades later we meet Pantera again as he arrives in Coriallum (modern Cherbourg) after a stint as a spy in Britannia, during which he went native in the turmoil of the Boudican revolt. No sooner has he landed than he's recruited by the Emperor Nero to discover the missing details of a prophecy that Rome will burn - and then stop it happening.

Sweeping through three contrasting and vividly imagined parts of the Roman Empire - Gaul, Alexandria and finally Rome itself - this epic historical thriller is ablaze with intrigue, treachery, murder and chariot-racing, and is peopled by characters of a depth and complexity not often found in this genre. Some of the characters are from Scott's Boudica series, which will please fans of these novels but won't, I'm sure, disadvantage those who haven't read them. Integral to the plot is an unorthodox take on St Paul (as he then wasn't) and the beginnings of Christianity. I've no idea how plausible this theory is, but it works in the context of the story and the author provides a copious note on the matter for those who want to pursue it.

Rome: The Emperor's Spy marks a welcome return to the punchy style of Scott's contemporary crime novels. The vigorous, well-paced story is satisfyingly wound up, yet there's enough in the way of loose ends and unfinished business to make this reader look forward to the next in the series.

The author's website is here.


Carla said...

This sounds interesting, and worth looking out for - thanks for the review. I would otherwise have been put off, as I found the style of the Boudica novels much too wordy for my liking.

Anthony said...

Dear Sarah Cuthbertson

I hope you will forgive me: I'm using this comment not about the book, but as a way of tracking you down. I have noticed that your great Rosemary Sutcliff : An Appreciation blog has gone quiet - noticed because I have had a burst of energy.

Have you both stopped with it and moved on - I enjoyed reading this blog now I have found it.

My blog at blogspot is stuck, I cannot access it and I can get no reply from them! I have developed it at

Given the role of Rosemary's books for you that you have referred to in the past, I expect you will be pleased that she has just won the Phoenix Award in the US ( see the blog)

Any way, all the best
Anthony Lawton

PS I am intrigued by the airport market research; I once ran a manager education for an airport's managers!