Bell’s Corpus Conundrum

Albert A. Bell Jr.’s latest entry into the genre of Roman mysteries is The Corpus Conundrum. Summer is a perfect time for this charming story of the misadventures of the letter-writing Pliny the Younger and his friend and sometime helper, the historian Tacitus. Were the Roman sub-genre as popular as it deserves to be, you’d find this on the grocery store shelves alongside the feline contributions of the late Lilian Jackson Braun. Bell makes it up-to-the-minute contemporary with a dose of the vampire. It appeals to other popular tastes with a sex medley and the quest for eternal youth and freedom from death. Like other historical mysteries, it provides vignettes of ancient daily life and politics, including corruption. The one thing that bothers me — mostly because I don’t know if it’s plausible — is the idea that Jews would have been able to blend into Roman society unnoticed.

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