Thursday, May 11, 2006

Scorpion Rising by Marilyn Todd - a review

Scorpion Rising is the latest book by Marilyn Todd in the Claudia series. Claudia Seferius is the young widow of a Roman wine merchant. Left the entire business by her late husband, Claudia finds herself up against her late husband's family, the Wine Merchants guild and society at large. It's not easy running a business in a man's world. Claudia often finds herself on the wrong side of the law trying to keep the business afloat, being chased by the drop dead gorgeous head of the Security Police, Marcus Cornelius Orbillo.

In this outing, Claudia finds herself blackmailed into investigating the death of a young acolyte. She's managed to get herself on the wrong side of a Gaulish crime lord, known as the Scorpion, who wants her dead. The only way to save her skin is to discover the killer. The priestesses are known as the Hundred Handed as they talk with their hands. They worship nature, believe dwarves have healing powers and keep men as sex slaves. Claudia must penetrate this deeply secretive society to get to the bottom of this mystery, before the Scorpion finds her and fulfils his threats.

This is in fact Claudia's 13th outing and the format is becoming a little tired. The constant 'will they get together or won't they?' between Claudia and Orbillo is particularly frustrating and you'd think by now they would have sorted themselves out!

The storyline as a whole has more twists and turns than a labyrinth with a number of smaller mysteries interweaving their way through the main murder mystery. I must admit I did get lost on occasion, although whether this was down to having to read it in snatches over lunch breaks or was a fault of the book I don't know. I certainly didn't have it all worked out and there were some big surprises. On the whole though I found Claudia's constant berating of the Hundred Handed a bit over powering. Ok so there are plenty of things you can find fault with (men kept as sex slaves, no marriage, priestess not keeping their children etc) but as someone who tries to tolerate other cultures I just found myself wanting to knock some tolerance into Claudia!

It's reasonably written, but it's not a must read. If you've enjoyed the other books in the series, it's worth reading. If you fancy a murder mystery series set in Ancient Rome with a heroine rather than a hero, then I'd advise you start at the beginning and work your way through the series rather than reading this one first. You do need to know something about Claudia before launching into this book. The first book in the series is I Claudia.

3 stars

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