Finished Business

Last summer, I got to check out an ARC of David Wishart’s latest Marcus Corvinus mystery, Solid Citizens. This summer, I received the newest one, Finished Business, which means more Roman mystery for me. YEAH!

Marcus Corvinus is aging a bit now, and becomes a grandfather when his adopted daughter and her husband have their first child. But he doesn’t quite have time to be the doting grandpa with all the mysteries, murder, and kidnapping going on around him.

Finished Business is  another really great Marcus Corvinus mystery, set at the end of Caligula’s reign. The story’s on a larger Roman scale, a bit like Germanicus, because Marcus Corvinus stumbles upon a conspiracy against Caligula. This time period will be familiar to fans of Robert Graves and Suetonius.  (Oh! Did I tell you guys that I tried to watch I, Claudius with my husband? He said he liked it, but then he wandered into the kitchen for a soda during “don’t touch the figs”, so I’m thinking he was just pretending to follow it.) Without revealing too much, Marcus Corvinus has to decide just how loyal he is to a notably unstable emperor.

The author’s note explains a couple minor deviations from history (although I expect the details around an assassinated emperor have been fudged many times before), but it’s still close enough for a Roman historian reading a novel. Wishart also explains that Messalina must have had a previous husband since she’s an aged spinster of at least 21 at the time of her marriage to Claudius. (I just remembered my 30th birthday, drinking margaritas and toasting my impending spinsterhood, with Tryon, Kate, and Roy. Which is preferable to a Roman woman of that age sacrificing to, I don’t know, Juno Lucina, probably, in thanks for not dying in childbirth in her twenties.) I really only get cranky about historical inaccuracy when it’s glaring, like when someone in Rome gets a message from Gaul that was written yesterday.

Overall, more adventures in ancient Rome, with plenty of household snark, and the ending makes it pretty clear that there will be another Marcus Corvinus tale under Claudius’ rule.


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