Book Review: A Roman Death by Joan O' Hagan


The Details

A Roman Death by Joan O’Hagan

Publisher: Black Quill Press

Published: 2018 (originally published in 1988)

Genre: Historical Fiction, Murder Mystery

Pages: 241

Available: ebook, paperback, hard cover

Sex:  not much/nothing graphic, incest

Violence: 😨 rape scene, nonviolent murder


My Review

Reviewer’s Note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Plot in Brief: Quintus Fufidius is a self-made man. When an opportunity presents itself to marry his daughter, Fufidia to Lucius Scaurus, a member of an old Roman patrician family, he jumps at the chance. Fufidia is ecstatic, her mother angry, her uncle horrified. Lucius is not who Fufidia thinks. Lucius is found dead the morning after their pre-wedding banquet. Helvia, her mother is accused. The plot slowly reveals the motivations of several key players, and dark family secrets are revealed.

The Characters: There are quite a few characters in this story, each with their own motivations for murder. I really enjoyed them all. Fufidius wants what’s best for his family, he’s protective and loving. Helvia is concerned about her dowry and what will happen to the money once her daughter marries. Lucius and his father are the bad boys of show, disreputable and conniving. I found them well drawn and very believable.

The History: Set in 45 B.C. in the months leading up to the death of Julius Caesar, this is a heady time in Rome. The mighty empire is growing and about to enter its Imperial Period. The description of Roman life is in depth and full of wonderful details. Cicero, the great Roman Statesman is called on to defend Helvia when she is accused of the murder. The poet Gaius Helvius Cinnia is Helvia’s brother and uncle of Fifidia. I really enjoyed the inclusion of real historical figures in the story. The trial of Helvia was wonderfully written and very entertaining.

The Writing: Well written, the story slowly (but not too slowly) unfolds as layer by layer the author peels back the shiny surface to reveal the ugliness that lies beneath. The murder mystery is complex with plenty of twists. The resolution is very satisfying.

Overall: I thought this book was ridiculously good. I’m surprised I hadn’t read it already given that it was first published in the eighties. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy historical fiction, the Roman Empire, and a great whodunit.


My Rating: 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐stars

Buy the Book: Readers, I've included a link below if you are interested in seeing more about this book.


See my historical fiction bookshelves at Amazon for more great Historical Fiction.



  1. By the gods, Historians, Romanophiles, and Mystery fans alike will appreciate this intuitive, well-researched, and scandalous edge-of-your-seat read.

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