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Poetic Justice (The Publius Ovidius Mysteries, Book 1)

By: Fiona Forsyth
Publisher: Sharpe Books
Publication Date: November 30, 2024
ISBN: 979-8871605691
Reviewed by: Trix Lee-Rainwater
Review Date: March 9, 2024

What happens when a celebrated poet's own words become a blueprint for murder? Find out in Poetic Justice by Fiona Forsyth.

The year is 8 AD, and Ovid, the renowned Roman poet, has been banished from Rome to the remote town of Tomis by Emperor Augustus. Ovid struggles to adjust to his new life on the fringes of the empire, longing for the luxuries of the capital. He wallows in self-pity, drowning his sorrows in the local taverns and regaling anyone with tales of how he saw something secret that made the Emperor exile him. Little does he know, his new home is far from peaceful – for before his arrival, the remote town was shaken by a pair of bizarre animal killings: a burnt cat and a horse with its throat slit.

Ovid's former colleague Avitius, now a security advisor for the Governor, was tasked to apprehend the perpetrator. He then enlists Ovid’s help to solve the mystery. These animal killings soon pale in comparison to the grisly crimes that follow. When a young barmaid is found strangled with an odd chain with a silver crescent moon charm, it becomes clear that something more nefarious is at work in Tomis. As the duo delve deeper, a chilling pattern emerges: the killer is using the poet's stolen drafts of his unfinished Calendar of Festival poems as a blueprint for the ritualistic crimes. Ovid realizes with dawning horror that the animal killings marked the Altar of Peace and Festival of Equirria - preluding the strangulation that coincided with the Festival of Luna. With the next celebration looming, the investigators must race against time to identify the culprit before more innocent lives are sacrificed.

Poetic Justice is a riveting murder mystery that transports readers to the heart of the ancient Roman empire. Forsyth crafts her characters with nuanced depth, with Ovid himself an arrogant yet endearing protagonist whose fatal flaws and self-importance make his slow albeit redemptive character development shine. The novel deftly explores the fascinating what-ifs of Ovid's exile from Rome while serving as a study of the poet being forced to reckon with his own unfinished masterwork, the Fasti.

Forsyth's vivid prose immerses us in the realities and pagan traditions of the era, richly depicting macabre festivals like that of the Festival of Cybele. While the central mystery initially seems convoluted by a slew of names and potential suspects, it soon becomes clear that this sprawling cast is a deliberate move by Forsyth. As the fusion of poetry and grisly crime unfolds, readers will be captivated by the plot and immersive historical details, even as some loose threads regarding the killer's motivations are left untied by the end. This seems to be an intentional setup for further entries in what promises to be an engrossing saga exploring Ovid's banished life on the fringes of the empire. With its robust character work and compelling mystery steeped in legitimate poetry, Poetic Justice cements Forsyth as a master storyteller of historical fiction.

Quill says: This gripping mystery where a poet's own words take on a sinister life is a true literary feast.

For more information on Poetic Justice (The Publius Ovidius Mysteries, Book 1), please visit the author's website at:

Tea and Toil at the Woman's Club

Sunny Gale

Poetic Justice (The Publius Ovidius Mysteries, Book 1)

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