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Book Review – Nox Dormienda (A Long Night For Sleeping): An Arcturus Mystery by Kelli Stanley

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The Arcturus series is a new mystery collection set in Roman-occupied Britain. The governor, Agricola, has subdued the Britons and built a fragile peace after the terrible destruction of the Druids' sacred isle of Mona and the defeat of Boudicca. But the balance is precarious; the Romans and the natives barely tolerate each other.

Arcturus is caught with a foot in both worlds. His mother was a Briton but his father and step-father were both Roman. He has managed to become a successful physician, officially he is Agricola's physician, but he manages to hover in the middle. He feels the tug of divided loyalties.

In the first book of the series, Nox Dormienda (A Long Night for Sleeping), after a busy day treating patients, a beautiful woman comes to see Arcturus. Her name is Gwyna and she claims that the Governor is in danger.  Arcturus has a knack for solving problems and a bit of a reputation for it, too. Perhaps because of his knowledge of both nationalities, he is able to win trust on both sides. He is a little distracted, though, by Gwyna, and the other interesting members of his household are both a hindrance and a help.

Before you know it a murder has taken place, and then another. The Romans blame the native community, particularly one young Druid who is conveniently in their path. Can Arcturus unravel the mystery in time to find the real killer, save the young man and avoid the civil war that is sure to erupt if the Romans execute the wrong man?

This mystery novel is full of well developed characters and has an intriguing plot. The setting of Roman Britain is so masterfully crafted that it is obvious the author has immersed herself in it. You can feel the mud and the dreary rain and see the gray mist that covers the Londinium of the time. I loved the inclusion of the excellent glossary in the back which included every Latin and Celtic word used in the book.

In her author's note, Ms. Stanley explains that she is a fan of Noir films and the classic private eye stories of Raymond Chandler. That is certainly apparent in this engrossing mystery. Some of the snappy language was hilarious and the whole time I was reading it I kept seeing Humphrey Bogart in his overcoat (make that a toga) and hearing Dick Tracy in my ear. It was a vivid, exciting, hard-boiled mystery with a bit of fun thrown in!

I hope I will be able to review the next book in the series, Maledictus. I have to know what happens to Arcturus and the rest of the lively characters that live in Ms. Stanley's world of Roman Noir.

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