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The Triumph of Caesar: A Novel of Ancient Rome    by Steven Saylor order for
Triumph of Caesar
by Steven Saylor
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

In Steven Saylor's highly recommended fifteenth novel, another in the acclaimed Roma Sub Rosa series, readers are reintroduced to an older and wiser Gordianus, now sixty-four years old and recently returned to Rome from his time spent in Egypt.

Known to many as The Finder, Gordianus has a reputation for having 'a nose for danger and a taste for finding the truth.' It is because of that reputation that Julius Caesar's 'hard-headed, pragmatic, and ruthless' wife Calpurnia has summoned Gordianus. After having consulted an Etruscan oracle, Calpurnia tells Gordianus that 'Caesar is in danger. Great danger. That's why I've called you here.' And so it is that the well-respected Finder takes on one of his most challenging cases: discover and prevent whatever menace awaits Caesar.

One of the preliminary clues about the hazards to Caesar comes from the recent murder of Gordianus' old friend Hieronymus, the famous Scapegoat of Massilia. If Gordianus can find out who murdered his eccentric friend - a man who had been previously employed by Calpurnia in her search for clues about the presumed threats to her husband - then Gordianus correctly reasons that the truth about dangers to Caesar will become obvious. Fortunately, Hieronymus has left a notation in some documents that ought to help: 'Look all around! The truth is not found in the words, but the words may be found in the truth.' Unfortunately - at least at first - Gordianus cannot quite understand his dead friend's enigmatic evidence.

Perhaps the dangers await Caesar during his planned series of four triumphs - his glorious parades of victory, celebration, and homecoming - or perhaps the problems lie in Caesar's planned changes for Roman social and political environments (including a revision of the obviously obsolete and confusing calendar). Whatever dangers await Caesar, Gordianus knows that he must move quickly and decisively. And throughout his movements, and during his attempts to discover the elusive truth about what happened to Hieronymus, Gordianus must contend with a complicated variety of personalities, all of whom are featured prominently in The Triumph of Caesar: Calpurnia, Antony, Brutus, Cicero, Octavius, Cleopatra (in all her seductive singularity), the spectral shade of Hieronymus, and - of course, the main man himself - Julius Caesar.

Fascinating in its scope and detail, Steven Saylor's exquisitely rendered novel portrays a period of Roman history wherein everything is askew and nothing is quite right. An invisible malady seems to plague Rome, specific and growing dangers await the triumphant Julius Caesar, and only Gordianus - one of the most charismatic sleuths in the world of historical fiction - can help ancient Rome avert a seemingly inevitable disaster.

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