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The ancient Roman world comes to life in this complex tale of horrific murder. Pliny the Younger and Tacitus, the future historian, are returning from a posting by caravan and break the journey in Smyrna. In the morning one of their number is discovered with his heart cut out. The authorities assume his slaves are responsible and prepare to take action: torture and death for all the man’s enslaved household. Pliny is convinced not all is as it seems: the man did not die from having his heart removed, and the guilty party is not among his slaves. More than a sense of justice motivates Pliny to work quickly; at risk is a beautiful and innocent young slave girl.  Pliny calls in the help of Tacitus and others in the caravan, Luke the biblical physician and his young companion Timothy.

First in the award-winning series. Second in the series, The Blood of Caesar, was named a Best Mystery of 2008 by Library Journal.

Praise for the books of the series:
Outstandingly researched and laden with suspense … one of the masterpieces of the historical mystery genre. … Highly recommended for all collections.  –Library Journal starred review

The author brings to the reader the many cultures that were yoked under the politics and power of ancient Rome. ...  The colorful characters, both fictional and historical, are well blended to reveal the sordid web of money, greed and ruthlessness hidden behind the facade of civilization. One hopes to see Albert Bell’s Pliny again in the future. –Suzanne Crane, The Historical Novels Review

Superbly crafted, wonderfully written murder mystery that treats the reader to a thrilling detective story meticulously back-grounded with accurate historical detail. –Midwest Book Review

Superlative job of leading the reader into his Roman world … The plot “worked”, and the dialogue seemed just right. A winner all around! –Margaret F. Baker, Past Tense, of the Historical Mystery Appreciation Society

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