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How often do you think about the Roman Empire? BLOOD AND SHADOWS will have you thinking about it a lot.

The Battle of Philippi is over. Octavian and Mark Antony have defeated the Republic. A cause and a generation of young noblemen have been lost.
 
Lucius Sestius, after his deadly encounters with conspiracy and the Ides of March, has been driven from Rome by his allegiance to Caesar’s murderers. He has seen his commanders die on the battlefield, and now he and his friends must rebuild their lives, burdened by defeat and grief.
 
In exile on Sicily, Lucius investigates the mysterious murder of a soldier, just as peace negotiations between Antony, Octavian and the rebel Sextus Pompey are being planned.
 
When another murder threatens the negotiations, Lucius is ordered to make enquiries and provide a convenient explanation. Realising this is his only path to freedom, he returns to Rome knowing that a murderer has gone free.
 
Back home, the murder of the veteran centurion Crastinus leads Lucius to the terrible suspicion that one of his friends is responsible, and that he himself has allowed this to happen. 

Blood and Shadows is the third novel in author Fiona Forsyth’s epic series featuring the Roman Lucius Sestius, and it definitively brings an emotional closure to this wonderfully satisfying historical mystery trilogy. Book three focuses on Lucius’s experiences after he survives the devastating battle between opposing Roman armies at Philippi, an event that changed him and Rome forever. 

The author’s writing is strong in many areas, and one, in particular, is character development. She especially has her craft completely in hand as she depicts Lucius’s changes over three novels. Lucius grew to manhood as a privileged son in a senatorial family and was destined to serve the Republic and lead if chosen. His esteemed father taught him to always act with honor and do what’s right for the people of Rome. Still, Lucius is ultimately disappointed to discover that not all his peers or even Julius Caesar himself are willing to do the same. When Caesar is assassinated, Lucius sides with Brutus and Cassius and is present at their army’s defeat at Philippi. Although he survives, he is not undamaged; Lucius escapes to Sicily, a changed man. He and his friends, Horace and Marcus, understand they will probably live out their lives separated from family, friends, and homeland, and each must deal with the psychological aftermath of the horrors of their battlefield experiences in their own ways. 

Lucius’s anxiety over the murder of the unidentified soldier haunts him throughout the book, and additional murders, committed in a similar fashion, follow him back to Rome after he is pardoned. Tragically, his suspicions shift to his two friends, but his hands are tied as to how to reveal which of them is the murderer. 

As with the previous books in the trilogy, the story is studded with historical figures, true events, and the little details of everyday life in ancient Rome that bring these books to life. There is always a mention of some activity, item, or event that sends me to Google to read more about it. 

With its endearing main character and wonderfully vivid settings, I recommend BLOOD AND SHADOWS to readers of historical mysteries, especially those interested in ancient Rome (and I understand, according to TikTok, that would be many of you?) and fans of the previous novels. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

 

See my review of The Emperor's Servant (Lucius Sestius Mystery, #2) here!

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