AD 91, Erbercus, Britain. The Romans have annexed Britain as part of their Empire fifty years previously and now the Roman and native population live side-by-side. Despite the time that has passed, this is not a peaceful co-habitation, and things seem to be getting worse. The Shadow Of Death is coming…
Aurelia Marcella, a Roman who fled the ruins of Pompeii, runs the Oak Tree Inn, on the road to Ebercus (i.e. York). Violence is increasing against the Romans, and the masked figurehead, known only as The Shadow Of Death, is masterminding a campaign to drive the Romans back home – or just into the grave. When a mysterious messenger is brutally beaten near the Inn, Aurelia becomes involved in the hunt for the Shadow. But he seems to have some worrying inside information. Could he be someone that Aurelia knows? And meanwhile, the body count is rising and rising…
Now this takes me back. I remind long-term readers of my review of Wine Of Violence by Priscilla Royal – must return to that series one day. For some reason, the blurb on Amazon for the ebook was for an entirely different book – the underwhelmingly named Get Out Or Die. The title notwithstanding, the book sounded intriguing, and I said that I might get round to reading it at some point. And then, as is often my wont, I completely forgot about it.
Fast forward eighteen months, and a long car journey inspired me to pick a random novel from my Kindle to read and I settled on Shadows In The Night. No particular reason. I’d bought it a while ago, as an “Amazon Recommends” suggestion for a pittance. I think it was when I was still hunting for a decent Roman whodunnit from someone who isn’t Paul Doherty, but gave up before getting round to it. Anyway, to skip a bit of the story, about a hour before I started writing this blog, I discovered that this is the same book – the title has been dumped for a more enticing one (which clearly worked) – so, by sheer dumb luck, I’ve finally got round to reading it.
I’m very glad I did. This is an outstanding read. Really, really enjoyable.
First of all, the story keeps moving. By having a conspiracy as your enemy, you can keep the revelations coming while still keeping the head of the conspiracy a secret. There are plenty of exciting sequences – the siege of the inn while someone is killing people inside springs to mind – but at its heart, this is still a proper mystery. By the way, the old title refers to a message that is repeatedly left by the conspiracy.
The characters are enjoyable company, from Aurelia herself to her extended family and her co-investigators. I did enjoy in particular Titch, the young horse whisperer. By keeping the pool of suspects relatively small, you get a feel for them as well. It took me a little while to keep the various Roman names straight – most of the characters have two different names and it took me a little time to twig this, but that was probably me being a bit thick.
As for the mystery, I’ll admit that I twigged the main surprise quite early, as it just seemed to make sense. Not a problem though, as I enjoyed the book immensely and I was never quite sure if I was right.
Anyway, I’ll say nothing more apart from giving this my highest recommendation. I’ll be on the lookout for the rest of the series, and I recommend you do the same.
Oh, one other thing. Congrats to the author for keeping the romance elements restrained. A lot of historical fiction seems to have the characters leaping into bed at the slightest opportunity and then describing such events in detail. So nice to see someone concentrating on the heart of a relationship rather than other organs.
I bought this book with my own pocket money – it’s available as an ebook or as a hardback. The ebook is a currently a bargain at £1.28. Buy it!