On the eve of Marcus Cicero's inauguration as consul of Rome, the grisly death of a boy sends ripples of fear through a city already wracked by civil unrest, crime, and debauchery of every kind. Felled by a hammer, his throat slit and his organs removed, the young slave appears to have been offered as a human sacrifice, forbidden as an abomination in the Roman Republic.
For Cicero, the ill forebodings of this hideous murder only increase his frustrations and the dangers he already faces as Rome's leader: elected by the people but despised by the heads of the two rival camps, the patricians and populists.
Caught in a political shell game that leaves him forever putting out fires only to have them ignite elsewhere, Cicero plays both for the future of the republic and his very life. There is a plot to assassinate Cicero, abetted by a rising young star of the Roman senate named Gaius Julius Caesar - and it will take all the embattled consul's wit, strength, and force of will to stop it and keep Rome from becoming a dictatorship.
In this second novel of his Roman trilogy, following the best-selling Imperium, Robert Harris once again weaves a compelling and historically accurate tale of intrigue told in the wise and compassionate voice of Cicero's slave and private secretary, Tiro. In the manner of I, Claudius, Harris vividly evokes ancient Rome and its politics for today's listeners, documenting a world not unlike our own - where the impulse toward dominance competes with the risk of overreach, where high-minded ideals can be a liability, and where someone is always waiting in the wings for a chance to set the world on fire.
"Republican Rome, with all its grandeur and corruption, has rarely been made as vivid....The allure of power and the perils that attend it have seldom been so brilliantly anatomized in a thriller." (The Sunday Times, London)
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Not as good as the first installment