Third opus of the adventures of the centurion of the praetorium Kaeso always accompanied by Io his faithful and formidable leopard. Cristina Rodríguez offers us in his latest novel, The profaned Aphrodite, a new thriller in ancient Rome of the first century AD. Taking up the ingredients that made the success of previous works, including rigorous historical documentation, this thriller offers an interesting and lively immersion in the daily life, intrigues and mores of Roman high society.
Presentation of the plot
Rome, during the reign of Tiberius. The Praetorian Guard is defeated and ridiculed following a series of kidnappings of patrician children. At the same time, a precious statuette representing the goddess Aphrodite is stolen from a member of the imperial family during a banquet for which Kaeso was in charge of security, leaving in its wake only corpses and interrogations. The centurion and his team no longer have the right to make mistakes, they must lead these two investigations head-on, confronting them with the delicate upper echelons of Roman society. It is imperative to restore the image of the elite unit of the Roman army in charge of the protection of the Emperor and to end the humiliation suffered.
A tremendous historical precision
With a light feather, seductive style, it is above all the historical precision of this thriller that surprises and attracts. Where many historical novels indulge in approximation and fantasy, Cristina Rodríguez does not give in to ease. In line with these biographies of Roman emperors like The Barefoot Caesar devoted to Caligula, giving a new take on this character with an unflattering historiography, the author continues to present this new look of the third emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, here present in the novel as a close friend of Kaeso. Like the investigations of Nicolas Le Floch, detective stories by Jean-François Parot in the agitated Paris of the 18th centurye century, Cristina Rodríguez is showing us a true painting of Rome from the first century of our era. If the previous opus, Murders on the Palatine, took us to the heart of the plebs and the city's slums, the present novel, on the contrary, plunges us into the high society of the patricians and their sometimes very sulphurous mores and addresses a certain number of themes such as traffic in works of art or the world of courtesans.
What to remember?
We can only recommend this historical novel to people wishing to discover with lightness the daily life of ancient Rome around a police investigation. The modern and simple style of Cristina Rodríguez allows an easy immersion in a strongly codified society and far from being easily understood as one quickly becomes attached to the Praetorian and his entourage. The only downsides to this thriller: an intrigue that is sometimes too conventional, investigations less thrilling than those of the previous opuses as well as psychological relations which only progress slowly between the different protagonists. But whatever, we are already impatiently awaiting the continuation of the adventures of the great and handsome German centurion Kaeso to dive once again into the fascinating and bewitching ancient Rome.
The Profaned Aphrodite, by Cristina Rodriguez. Editions du masque, March 2011.