My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Libertus is a Celt in Roman Britain, who has become a citizen of Rome. A craftsman who creates mosaic pieces, he has for his patron a wealthy Roman.
Libertus has a reputation for solving crimes. So when two murders take place, and each body is found in his workshop, he starts to see patterns. What develops is a web of treason (a Roman decurion helping rebels in the area), assassination for hire (a Roman courier who kills on order), and an election that is subject to bribery.
The story flows quickly, with a lot of conversation between Libertus, his adopted son, several slaves, the courier and the decurion. It makes for a nice quick read. Things move quickest and with most fascination when Libertus realizes the resolution of the murders, their motives, and how to prevent the next, and most important intended murder and save the intended victim’s life,
The novel seems to rely on the reader knowing a lot about Libertus’ backstory. There seems little character development, hardly any context of the Romano-British culture. There are mild references to distinctions between Celt and Roman religious traditions, and the description of a newborn’s Roman naming day ceremony is well researched and written. But all the characters seem stilted and two-dimensional, perhaps because the author expects readers to have kept up with all the stories.
Having said that, I will probably look for more of Libertus’ tales. I have not known a character who works in mosaics, after all.