The Bull Slayer-Bruce Macbain

The Bull Slayer
Bruce Macbain
Poisoned Pen, Mar 5 2013, $24.95
ISBN: 9781464201080

In the tenth regnal year of his reign, Emperor Trajanus Augustus assigns fiftyish Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus to the post of governor of Bithynia-Pontus province. The ruler orders Pliny the Younger (as Secundus is called by many) to eradicate the corruption using any means necessary in a place where Romans were slaughtered a century ago.

Pliny and his retinue are greeted by the province’s fiscal procurator, Marcus Vibius Balbus, who has ruled Bithynia-Pontus with absolute authority by controlling the purse strings and terrorizing governors. Ignoring the not veiled threat Pliny interrogates an angry Balbus. As they settle into a siege mentality Pliny, his staff and family find the Greeklings hostile especially since his mission angers the affluent like Diocles the Golden Mouth who he needs to succeed. When Balbus vanishes, Pliny leads the inquiry while the irate citizens seem verging on overt assaults on the outsiders.

The second Plinius Secundus Ancient Rome historical (see Roman Games) is an engaging thriller in which the protagonist’s personal life and relationships with his loving eccentric wife Calpurnia and his staff (especially Zosimus and Suetonious) supersedes (and overwhelms) the whodunit. Loaded with tidbits about life at the beginning of the second century AD in Bithynia-Pontus, fans who appreciate a sense of being there to see family dynamics will enjoy The Bull Slayer even though the whodunit rarely takes top billing.

Harriet Klausner

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