Don’t play sad music to Caroline Lawrence. It apparently makes her want to kill people. Her thirteenth Roman Mystery, The Slave-girl from Jerusalem, out this week, has just given me a bit of a Sirius Black moment. Caroline has killed off one of her characters. Daughter14, who snatched the book from me when it arrived, was left crying on her own without the comfort of an understanding mother. Well, I didn’t know what to comfort her about, did I?
Daughter was given the first three Roman Mysteries for Christmas some years ago. I reasoned that she liked crime and she liked history, so these would be perfect. She didn’t read them. The Resident IT Consultant read and liked the books. So we forced her to read the first one. As you’ll find, there’s a fair amount of book forcing going on chez bookwitch.
Then I found Caroline was coming to Daughter’s school, and hurriedly bought the next five books. So now we had eight, seven of them untouched by Daughter’s hands. That summer holiday she dutifully started on number two. Then there was a frenzied movement as Daughter gobbled up all eight. I read them after her, reasoning I’d have plenty of time being second. No. Daughter started re-reading them, coming closer and closer to my book. Then we read in tandem, taking turns, before she overtook me the second time. There’s been no looking back.
Caroline has been here three times, so Daughter and the rest of us have lunched and brunched with her, and read plenty more books.
It’s not very proper to admit to a general lack of interest in the classics. I blame my school. But I find these books provide an excellent way to get a bit of a classical education. In fact, I’m amazed that Caroline can manage to fit in so many real dates and people into her plots. I’d never even considered the possibility of feeling close to Pliny the elder or any of those boring old Roman emperors, but I do. I couldn’t have cared less about Roman latrines, despite my enormous interest in toilets.
It’d be easy to dismiss the Roman Mysteries as light reading and just another series. Caroline herself admits to being inspired by the Famous Five and by Nancy Drew. But these books are great. They entertain. They educate. There’s another five to come. What shall we do after number eighteen..?
I’ll leave you with the opening sentence of The Slave-girl from Jerusalem. “Someone was going to die; of that he was perfectly sure.”
Hope you are halfway down the road to your nearest bookshop by now.