The Eyes of Aurora: A Fifth Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger by Albert A. Bell, Jr.

The Eyes of Aurora

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

As The Eyes of Aurora opens, Gaius Pliny has just won a court case against a formidable opponent, Marcus Regulus. Because he took the case as a favor for the mother of the girl his mother is insisting he marry and Regulus did not take the defeat well, Pliny makes arrangements for his mother and soon to be bride to travel to a safer area. While they are gone, Pliny and his servant Aurora, who is the woman Pliny really loves, set out on an adventure of their own.

Aurora has recently befriended Crispina, whose husband is missing and whose son is ill. Aurora convinces Pliny and his sidekick Tacitus to go with her to Crispina’s home in order to help figure out what has become of the husband. Unfortunately, when they arrive, what they find is a beheaded body and an odd word puzzle.

Much of the rest of the book is focused on the puzzle-what it means, what the solution is and how it ties into the murder. I love a good word puzzle so this was especially interesting for me. There is an explanation of the ROTAS/SATOR squares-which this puzzle is a version of-in the notes at the end of the book.

It has been interesting to follow the development of Pliny over the course of the series. While the books are excellent historical novels (and Bell puts notes at the end of the book explaining some of the more obscure terms or facts, the puzzle for example), they are also a story of forbidden love. Pliny grew up with Aurora and played with her as an equal as a child. Unfortunately, they were not then or now equals. Aurora’s mother was a servant in Pliny’s home as Aurora is now. But love doesn’t always respect class boundaries, and the tensions between the two have built with each book. In this, the fifth book, things heat up a notch further. I am anxiously waiting to see what is next for Pliny and Aurora!

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