Read SPQR XII: Oracle of the Dead by John Maddox Roberts Online


Decius Caecilius Metellus, this year's magistrate for cases involving foreigners, is living the good life in southern Italy, happy to be away from Rome, a city suffering war jitters over Caesar's impending actions. He thinks he is merely visiting one of the local sights when he takes a party to visit the Oracle of the Dead, a pre-Roman cult site located at the end of aDecius Caecilius Metellus, this year's magistrate for cases involving foreigners, is living the good life in southern Italy, happy to be away from Rome, a city suffering war jitters over Caesar's impending actions. He thinks he is merely visiting one of the local sights when he takes a party to visit the Oracle of the Dead, a pre-Roman cult site located at the end of a tunnel dug beneath a temple of Apollo. He quickly learns that there is a bitter rivalry between the priests of Apollo and those of Hecate, who guard the oracle.When the priests of Apollo are all killed, the countryside looks to explode in violence as Greeks, Romans and native Italians of several conquered nations bring out old enmities. Decius is caught squarely in the middle, desperate to find a way out that will pacify the district and, incidentally, save his own skin. This riveting series began with the Edgar Award-nominated SPQR and has gone on to international success in 13 languages....

Title : SPQR XII: Oracle of the Dead
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780312380939
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

SPQR XII: Oracle of the Dead Reviews

  • Dorothy
    2019-03-28 14:53

    I have followed Decius Caecilius Metellus, scion of the powerful Metellii, from his earliest career until this entry in his saga. He is now middle-aged and serving as Rome's praetor peregrinus, the magistrate who administers justice for foreigners. His career has evolved during the time of the end of the Republic. From his privileged vantage point, he has watched and participated in the machinations of many of the great and would-be-great. He knows them all and he tells us what he knows as he writes his memoirs, now in advanced years and long past the passions and interests that drove him as a young man.This latest entry takes place (although he didn't know it then) in the last year of the Republic. Julius Caesar (the uncle of Decius' beloved wife Julia) will soon cross the Rubicon and engage the Senate and Pompey and Rome will never be the same.All that is a backdrop to Decius' stay in Campania where he is hearing cases and dispensing justice. He visits a shrine of the goddess Hecate and consults her Oracle. But the consultation is interrupted by the discovery of a dead body. A priest of the great god, Apollo, whose shrine is also nearby. Soon all the other priests of that shrine are found dead and others are dropping like flies as well. An attempt in made on Decius' life. Now things are getting serious.In the end, of course, our praetor sorts it all out and Roman justice is preserved yet again. Now, Decius thinks a trip to Sicilia might be just the ticket. It might just keep him out of the looming civil war.John Maddox Roberts writes engagingly of the Roman Empire. He brings the historical figures of that time to us as real people, not just words on a page. His books are meticulously researched and he has a point of view which guides the action. His main man, Decius, is a likable sort with human flaws that are frequently pointed out by the acerbic, but loving, Julia. This has been a very entertaining series throughout and, although this is not my favorite entry, the quality has not diminished.

  • Georgina Ortiz
    2019-04-05 10:44

    There is one paragraph from Oracle of the Dead that made me slap my forehead in homage to its sheer comic brilliance (if you know and love the protagonist Decius, you would know what I'm talking about): "With a few of my helpers and preceded by my six lictors I rode on into the beautiful city, where I was greeted with the usual choruses of children and girls in white gowns who strewed flower petals in my path and local poets who read panegyrics in my honor. At least, I think they were panegyrics. I've never been too clear on the distinction between a panegyric and an ode. Oh well, as long as it's not a eulogy, I've no cause to complain. (p.88)"I googled the definition of panegyric: it is "a public speech or published text in praise of someone or something." And so, Decius, again, this review is a panegyric on the SPQR series' underrated flair for storytelling. It kept me up for hours—well into the night and past my (8 p.m.) beddie time. There were comic parts that made me laugh, and parts that made me think ("Diogenes said that when a man claimed to be doing something for honor, or for patriotism, or for love of his fellow man, or any other such high-flown reason, you could be certain that the real motive was something base and shabby (p.84)"—Gitiadas the philosopher). There were even parts that made me want to weep (I refer, in particular, to the book's last page, which mentioned Julia's eventual fate). I'm going to read other (non SPQR-related) books in the next few weeks, just to save the 13th (and last, so far) installment in this series for a sad, rainy day. I want Decius, Julia and everyone else in SPQR to keep me company by then. And so, Praetor Peregrinus Metellus, pursuer of evildoers, smiter of the wicked, target practice for archers, friend of the wine sellers, and enemy of sobriety (p.158), here's my wish for you. May you live for as long as I live :) Be kind, J.M. Roberts :(

  • Flemming
    2019-04-13 10:51

    Once again, its like coming home to be reading SPQR - Mr. Maddox's command of the historical events is impressive, and his ability to weave it into an engaging tale of mystery and imagination is even more so. I cannot recommend this series enough!

  • Margaret
    2019-04-09 12:51

    Excellent mystery story, which, for once, I couldn't work out who did it! This always makes me happy.As always, John Maddox Roberts research is impeccable, but doesn't overwhelm the story.Highly recommended.

  • Lila
    2019-04-13 17:35

    This is number 12 of the series. Here Decius is married to Julia, niece of Julius Cesar, and Hermes is a well-trained assistant; even Cato approves of Hermes. Decius knows trouble will soon be coming to Rome; but for now, aging but still assertive, he examines a murder at a Hecate/Apollo temple and has no hesitation in going into sacred shrines to examine the inner workings.

  • Ed
    2019-03-24 12:37

    Six-word Review: Visit oracle, bad news, murderer exposed.I love Roman Historical Fiction. When it involves a mystery, I like it even more. Although it's been around for quite a while, I only discovered John Maddox Roberts' SPQR series a short time ago. This is the second one I've read.In this, number 12 in the series, Decius Caecilius Metellus is now middle-aged and serving as Rome's praetor peregrinus, the magistrate who administers justice for foreigners. The story is told from his point of view as he is now retired and writing his memoirs having lived through the momentous years that resulted in the end of the Roman Republic. He has known all of the major players including Julius Caesar, his wife's cousin, and Pompey Maximus, Caesar's main opponent. He does his writing with both a sense of irony and humor, which makes for good reading.Decius is staying in Campania where he is hearing cases and dispensing justice. On his day off. he visits the shrine of the goddess Hecate and consults her Oracle. Unfortunately, the predictions are interrupted when a dead body shows up. It is that of the Head Priest of the next-door temple to Apollo. When he visits that temple the dead bodies of all the priests are found. Other murders keep happening and there is an attempt on Decius' life also, upping the stakes. After his recovery from his wounds, Decius works hard to find out what is going on. He eventually, of course, figures it out and brings the miscreants to justice. I am most impressed with how meticulous Roberts is in describing both the characters but also the culture of the late Roman Republic. His extensive research is evident in this book. Decius is a flawed hero but that fact makes him all the more real. Even though I've not read many of the preceding books in this series, I had no problem following what was going on. I can recommend this entry and look forward to reading more of this series, myself.

  • Joyce Lagow
    2019-04-16 13:43

    Now praetor perigrinus--an elected official whose job it is to hear cases involving foreigners or Roman citizens outside of Rome, Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger is traveling through the towns of Campania, along with his wife, household and now considerable retinue. For once, he's thankful to be away from Rome where everyone waits for the inevitable civil war; Caesar and the Senate are locked in unresolvable conflict, and Pompey is getting ready to raise an army to oppose him. Decius, who basically views the conflict with an attitude of "pox on both your houses: is grimly betting on Caesar to win any war, but he himself tries to remain neutral in a time that brooks no neutrality. Meanwhile, he has set up court in Baiae, a resort town in Campania that is home to a famous Oracle of the Dead, an ancient one that pre-dates even the Greek occupation of the area; it is located in a cavern through which flows, supposedly, the River Styx. Associated with the site and built above the shrine to Hecate located within the Oracle's bounds is a Temple of Apollo. Decius, Julia and their household visit the Oracle; while listening to the Oracle which does indeed prophesy correctly although Decius is unaware of the ramifications, a body washes up, that of the High Priest of Apollo. Decius being Decius, he can't resist getting involved and immediately announces an investigation, which really is beyond his authority as praetor--but when has our boy Decius ever followed the rules? More murders follow, and the unrest and uncertainty that grips Rome manifests itself in Campania as well. A change from the usual, there is no more political conspiracy in this book, perhaps because the time for conspiracies is at an end; everything is out in the open in Rome, and all await what must seem ironically like the end to a Greek tragedy with Roman trappings. The plot is good although not spectacular, and Roberts uses it to showcase another aspect of Italian religious life, that of foreign religious cults and the way they built on layers and layers of previous occupants of the area. There's some very good information about Greek occupation of the area, as well as the "Aborigines", which is the term used for the original inhabitants. A nice solid, interesting story set in the last year of the Republic just before Caesar crossed the Rubicon.

  • Norma
    2019-04-11 10:29

    ""Laugh at me would they? We'll see about that.""Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys unusual murder mysteries, historical fiction and/or has any interest in the lives and society of Ancient Rome. It is full of interesting little tidbits about beliefs and customs at the end of the Republic and the characterisations, especially that of Decius himself, are excellent.Which character – as performed by John Lee – was your favourite?John Lee is the voice of Decius Caecillius Metellus, the somewhat self indulgent, superior but humerous Praetor still travelling in southern Italy who is the teller of this story. And Lee fulfills this role to perfection.Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?The intriguing deaths of the priests of Apollo - not only who did it but also how was it done? - combined with the fascinating insights into the Roman provincial lifestyles had me hanging on every word, resentful when I had to turn off my listening device.Any additional comments?This series is almost at an end and I have enjoyed it immensely. John Lee has, for me, become Metellus the younger, married to a niece of Julius Caesar, as he rises through the ranks of Roman society at the end of the Republican era, solving mysteries along the way. I will miss my adventures with him and the dazzling mental pictures of Ancient Rome and it's life, good and bad, which were so vividly conjured up by John Maddox Roberts. I wish that the eBooks were also available with

  • Jane
    2019-04-12 17:47

    Decius Caecelius Metullus now is the praetor for cases involving foreigners, so he is all over Italy finding cases that will keep him out of Rome, which is on edge waiting for the power struggle between Caesar & Pompey to really get going. He is in Baiae with his wife & staff, having been lent a villa there. Pompey wants much of the land condemned, to give to his retiring legion. Most of the Caecelii are backing Pompey, but Decius is married to Caesar's niece and served with him in Gaul, so he knows who is the better general, but is keeping his preference quiet. There is a temple of Apollo in Baiae with an oracle of Hecate underneath it; the priests of Apollo and priests & priestesses of Hecate do not speak to each other & haven't for at least seven years. Decius & entourage visit the temple of Apollo, then go down to the oracle of Hecate, which is at the bottom of a long tunnel. While there, the body of the chief priest of Apollo pops up in the river flowing through the oracle, with no sign of how he died. The rest of the priests have vanished from the area. Decius has to find the priests, find how the chief priest died, and in the process find major shenanigans connected with the oracle of Hecate.

  • Bruce MacBain
    2019-03-21 17:55

    [This review originally appeared in Historical Novels Review:] In this, the twelfth of Roberts’ Roman mystery series featuring his sleuth Decius Caecilius Metellus, Italy is on the brink of civil war. Decius, who is serving his year as praetor (judge), decides to escape the tensions of Rome and tour the resort towns of Campania, doing a little judging and a lot of relaxing. But Campania too is in a ferment of political and ethnic strife. This comes to a head when the priests of a local temple of Apollo are found murdered and suspicion falls on the black-robed priestesses of Hecate, who utter prophecies to the credulous peasantry in a Stygian chamber beneath the temple. As Decius investigates, the bodies pile up and he too narrowly escapes death. Roberts serves up a large helping of historical background (sometimes, one feels, almost too much) and is very informative about the curiosa of Roman religion. The plot is well-paced and neatly resolved. For this reader, the book is marred only by dialogue that that strikes the ear as rather too modern and slangy.

  • Denise
    2019-04-07 14:57

    It's the clash of religions in this story as our Roman detective, Decius Caecilius Metellus, and his wife, Julia, are sightseeing in southern Italy. It's a bitter rivalry between the priests of Apollo (in a remodeled temple above) and the followers of Hecate (who worship their goddess in the Oracle of the Dead in the tunnel below the Apollo temple). Murder of the head Apollo priest leads our hero to begin his investigation when the other Apollo priests are found in a second tunnel hidden near the statue of Apollo). A pregnant slave girl, religious fanatics dressed in black, an eerie voice near an altar of human bones, and a rural district ready to riot over religious sacrilege has Decius scrambling to find the killer(s) in this, book twelve, of the SPQR series. Check them out for yourself but be sure to read them in sequential order or you'll miss out on many of the under currents in the individual stories!

  • Christopher Taylor
    2019-03-23 15:40

    Another fine entry in this series of Roman historical mysteries. Each is well-researched and intriguing, and by this point the investigator is mature and very established in power and status in Roman society. On vacation to a pleasant part of the country he encounters a fascinating split level temple with Apollo worshipped on the top and the dread goddess Hecate, not officially worshipped in Rome. An oracle is in the depths below in a series of ancient tunnels hewn from solid rock and leading to hot springs beneath.Soon murders and mystery abound, and while Decius, the main character, attempts to stay out of trouble he becomes entangled once more. The temple complex described actually exists, and baffles modern archaeologists and scientists with its design and workmanship.This book was as satisfying as the others, and as inevitable historical events come to a head (Caesar is headed to the Rubicon) things are about to get pretty dicey for the Metellus family in Rome.

  • Joy
    2019-04-02 18:38

    Decius is having the time of his life traveling around Italy as Praetor Peregrinus, putting on counterfeit dignitas and judging cases in all the luxury towns. At the Temple of Apollo and Hecate, he becomes aware of the activities of a mass murderer. He is happy to focus on the mystery while he tries to ignore the threat posed by the impending clash between Caesar and Pompey. With Pompey in the district and Decius himself married to Caesar's niece, this isn't easy, but an arrow in his chest makes finding the conspirators imperative. I thought at first that ORACLE OF THE DEAD was too light even for this light series, but eventually the fun, excitement and intrigue jell for a satisfying read.

  • Margaret
    2019-04-11 14:41

    Another nice fun mystery from Roberts. Here Decius is in Campania serving as praetor trying to avoid getting embroiled in the upcoming civil war between Pompey and Caesar. While he is there the priests at the temple of Apollo are murdered. What ensues is a conspiracy of robbery and murder involving many key people in the area of Campania. While the mystery itself is fun, more interesting are Decius' conversations with the locals about the upcoming war. His insight on Caesar and his army versus the famed general Pompey are accurate and enlightening. While Decius tries desperately to avoid the conflict brewing, Pompey and Cato arrive on scene. Overall a good read.

  • Mark Bruce
    2019-04-08 17:29

    After a couple of so-so books, Roberts seems to have found his oats again. This fine little work takes place just as Ceaser is debating whether he'll cross the Rubicon. The Hero, Metellus, is far, far away down South doing Roman business as praetor. He stumbles into a mystery involving the murder of a coven of priests and finds himself staring down Pompeii and Roman politics. What is especially enjoyable about this series is Roberts' portrait of Julia, wife of Metellus and neice of Ceaser.

  • Julie
    2019-04-17 16:41

    Whether intended or not, this entry is a nod to Agatha Christie. A bit of a locked room mystery (although in this case it is an inaccessible cave) with all relevant parties gathered at the end for the Poirot-esque denouement. Decius and Julia visit the oracle at the shrine of Hecate in Campagna only to have the body of the head priest of the adjoining cult of Apollo appear at their feet. A day later, all the priests of Apollo are found dead.

  • Argum
    2019-04-03 15:29

    Decius is still traveling the south of Italy as praetor. He visits an oracle that includes a river and a body appears in that river. In usual fashion more bodies soon appear and complications ensue. Pompey gets involved and fears are growing about what happens when Caesar returns from Gaul which is shortly. This was a lot like the last entry in that it involves rich folks and politics are at a minimum. Still enjoyed reading it though

  • Brett Bydairk
    2019-03-21 15:43

    Decius Caeciius Metellus takes the stage again in Book XII of the SPQR series. While visiting Baiae in his capacity of Praetor Peregrinus, Metellus finds the body of a priest of Apollo, to whom he had spoken only an hour previously. He begins his investigations with the help of his wife Julia (niece of the Divine Julius) and his freedman Hermes. Only after several more deaths and a near-successful attempt on his own life does he solve this perplexing mystery.

  • Jay Sprenkle
    2019-03-27 11:34

    This series is about a fictional Roman citizen who solves murders as part of his duties of office. The author always provides a great setting and wonderful descriptions of life in Ancient Rome. You get a good mystery as well! I highly recommend the whole series.The characters are believable and I find myself identifying with them. The author doesn't hide details you might need to solve the mystery. There's a good deal more than just the mystery so it has enough depth to be interesting.

  • Ian
    2019-04-18 17:31

    Lots of fun. This novel in the series is more amusing than most, even though it deals with multiple murder. Two competing temples, adjacent to each other. A conspiracy to defraud and murder pilgrims, for money (tsk tsk), set against the backdrop of the emerging civil war between Caesar and Pompey. The last year of the Republic.Complex plot, amusing characters, fun.

  • Alison
    2019-03-20 14:30

    Formulaic, as in the series as a whole, but provides a great visualization of the various bits of the Roman Empire at a pivotal time. Love the details of daily life and politics from an inside, gossipy perspective. A lot of fun, and I really do know more than I did going in.

  • C.A.
    2019-04-04 17:29

    This book finds our hero judging cases in Southern Italy while deciding what to do about Ceasar and his showdown with the Senate. Fortunately he has the murder of a group of priests of Apollo to distract him.

  • Lance McMurchy
    2019-04-02 14:56

    This is a good one! there is plenty of intrigue and conflict as Decius works his way through a conflict between two religious cults. Lots of murder and mystery to keep the pages turning. With not the predicability of some of his earlier novels.

  • Vicki Cline
    2019-04-12 16:39

    Once again, Decius Metellus plunges in where he shouldn't, trying to figure out who killed the priests of Apollo. As praetor peregrinus he shouldn't really involve himself, but he just can't resist. I love all of the SPQR mysteries and this is another good one.

  • Lynn C. Thigpen
    2019-04-04 12:54

    Ordinary life in ancient RomeA good mystery and a look at the Roman legal system. Educational while being very entertaining. Part of an outstanding series.

  • Kathy
    2019-03-23 11:33

    well done narrative that leaves reader wanting more

  • Elena. (theresmiling)
    2019-04-01 15:43

    My edition: German Audiobook - Audible exklusiv, gelesen von Erich Räuker

  • Georgene
    2019-04-05 10:52

    I really like this series and am sad that I am coming to the end of it or at least as far as I can tell. I wish Roberts would write some more, but perhaps he's getting tired of the characters.