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Friday 4 January 2019

‘Cicero Dies!’ By Peter Tonkin

Published by Peter Tonkin,
7 Nov 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-72928468-1
Cicero Dies begins in September 43 BCE as Decimus Albinus rides his horse through the inhospitable terrain of the Alps and contemplates his rapid change of fortune.  Decimus, played a leading role in securing Caesar’s overthrow and he recently achieved a momentous victory over Mark Antony outside the walls of Mutina.  The Governor of Cisalpine Gaul, however, is a strategist rather than a military commander, and he now finds himself isolated and leading a demoralised and defeated group of men.  His situation becomes immeasurably worse when he comes face to face with the novel’s protagonist, familiar to readers of the first two instalments of the “Caesar’s Spies” series, Artemidorus. 

The narrative then doubles back as Part I returns to a period three months earlier to when Caesar’s loyal General Mark Antony, having been declared hostis - an enemy of Rome, has retreated to a camp north of the Alps.  Further south, Cicero, the man who had him banished, is struggling to ensure the survival of the Republic.  Antony and his followers have pledged to exact revenge on the twenty assassins who remain at large following the bloody coup which took place just over a year before.  Octavian, Caesar’s great nephew and adopted son, is based in Bologna waiting to succeed his uncle, but Cicero still holds sway in Rome’s Senate and the young heir must bide his time before he stakes his claim for control.  There is a possibility that Octavian might join forces with Cicero, an idea that is anathema to Antony, Enobarbus, Artemidorus and many others who believe that the killing of Gaius Julius Caesar was an unlawful act of treachery.  The leaders of the depleted yet determined army still loyal to Caesar’s memory, decide that Artemidorus should attempt to broker an alliance between Antony and Octavian – a risky business to say the least.  Mark Anthony’s cavalry legate Gretorex, is commissioned to lead a small group of trained warriors including Artemidorus and his warrior-lover Puella, across the mountain range that lies between Mark Antony’s camp and that of Octavian.  They must journey through the inhospitable terrain of the northern forests, and contend with Gaulish robbers, whose ruthlessness has been fuelled by the brutal treatment of the local population exacted by Decimus’ troops who lack discipline as well as leadership.

Cicero Dies is the thrilling third novel of Peter Tonkin’s series set within the chaos that continues to threaten law and order in Rome and beyond well after Julius Caesar has been killed by his enemies.  The plot moves quickly and reflects the lack of stability within the Roman Republic in which intrigue and savagery are the order of the day.  As the idealists and opportunists who plotted Caesar’s downfall succumb to the lure of power and wealth only Artemidorus and his undercover team remain steadfast in their pursuit of justice for their dead leader and empathetic to the impact of the civic upheavals on ordinary people who live under Roman rule.  This is a breathless, brutal tale which weaves together historical fact and creativity, it is informative, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable.
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Peter Tonkin was born 1 January 1950 in Ulster, son of an RAF officer. He spent much of his youth travelling the world from one posting to another. He went to school at Portora Royal, Enniskillen and Palmer's, Grays. He sang, acted, and published poetry, winning the Jan Palac Memorial Prize in 1968. He studied English with Seamus Heaney at Queen's Belfast. His first novel, Killer, was published in 1978. His work has included the acclaimed "Mariner" series that have been critically compared with the best of Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley and Hammond Innes. More recently he has been working on a series of detective thrillers with an Elizabethan background.

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  

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