Who is the Author:
JANE FINNIS has been fascinated by the past ever since as a child she walked the straight Roman roads of East Yorkshire. After reading history at London University, she worked for some years in London as a freelance broadcaster for BBC Radio. Now she is settled in East Yorkshire again with her husband, Richard, and spends much of her time researching and writing about the Roman Empire.
BRITANNIA, 91 AD: A raw, frontier province lying at the northern edge of the Roman Empire. Its fifty years since the legions invaded, but the land still simmers with tension, especially in the north. But in the Oak Tree Inn on the road to Eburacum, both Roman and Briton are welcome. Innkeeper Aurelia Marcella fled the devastation of Pompeii to build a new life here, and though her roots are Roman, her heart belongs to Britannia. Then a messenger is brutally decapitated outside her Inn, a crude message scrawled on his body: ALL ROMANS WILL BE KILLED. GET OUT OR DIE. An act of rebellion, or something more sinister, something more personal? Amid shadows and deception, Aurelia will have to face the possibility that someone she knows and trusts her and her family dead…
Originally released in the USA in 2003 as “Get out or Die” “Shadows in the Night is book one in the Aurelia Marcella Mysteries
The story is told as a recounting of events / a report to the Roman Governor, which in a way gives away Aurelia survival, but lets face it, who kills the hero / heroine in book 1!
In all honesty i struggled with the style of the book to begin with, so much so that by about page 100 i nearly put it down, and then it suddenly made sense to me, the characters transformed from that 1 dimension paper thin effect that they had had to that point. Suddenly they popped off the page, and i found myself being drawn back to Roman Britain.
I had the bad guy pegged from about page 155, but every now and again the author did have me question myself, she plays the threads of the scheme out very well to keep the majority of readers guessing to the end. I’m going to be very interested to see where Jane Finnis takes Aurelia next in the second Aurelia Marcella mystery, this book was strong enough by the end to make me want to read the next but i will be looking for some growth in the characters and the dialogue which occasionally had a stilted quality.
I feel that the Machiavellian XXXX (name removed as its a spoiler) will return to bring more of his madness and mayhem to the lives of the family at Oak tree inn. This can only be a good thing, he brought a refreshing edge to the story which had the habit of getting a comfortable at times, this coupled with my biggest gripe of Aurelia’s bad habit of going all alpha female again nearly destroyed the book for me. I get what the author was saying and if you want to write about about how women are just as good as men at things great, but if you set a book in Roman Britain you need to accept that it wasn’t accepted back then and so some of the things she did would not have happened, would have been shut down by the male dominated society immediately. (its either historical fiction or alternate history, you have to choose).
So should you the casual observer buy this book?
Do you like a Mystery? (Yes: buy the book)
Do you like Roman books (Yes: its worth a read, its a first book and has some of the failings of that but also some great ideas and promise)
This book is Caroline Lawrence for grown ups, although i think teenagers who like a good roman mystery would enjoy this also. Think Caroline Lawrence, Ruth Dowie, Lindsey Davies,
Jane Finnis may have been around for some time, but she is new here and i think has potential to build a solid reputation.