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Monday, 15 February 2021

‘Death at Philippi’ by Peter Tonkin

Published by Sharpe Books,
9 March 2020.
ISBN: 979-863481413-1 (PB)

A devastating storm rages off the coast of Greece. Two opposing fleets are thrown into disarray. Masts plunge into the sea, dragging sails and men with them.

On board one of the ships Cleopatra is huddled down trying to find shelter. She watchers in horror as the man who had helped her to relative safety, Centurion Artemidorus, is swept overboard. Artemidorus is actually a spy known as Septem and commands a small unit with a mission from General Mark Antony to find and execute every man involved in the murder of Julius Caesar two years ago. He was on board ship to help Cleopatra and her navy break the blockade keeping Antony and his allies in Italy. They had nearly succeeded.

As Artemidorus hits the water he manages to remove most of his armour. He then scrambles aboard a large flat piece of wood. When the storm abates a little, he builds a rough shelter from floating debris and makes a fishing line from rigging. Eventually he is picked up by a trireme – a trader - and captained by a man named Seuthes. They are on their way to Neapolis in Thrace near Philippi.  When they reach their destination Artemidorus leaves them and sets off to find Antony and report what has happened to
Cleopatra's fleet.

So begins a hazardous journey when he has to outwit followers of Brutus and Cassius at every turn. When he eventually meets up with Antony, young Caesar's fleet arrives, it means they can now break the blockade. Artemidorus is reunited with the members of his undercover unit and together they set out to help Antony and Caesar defeat Brutus and Cassius and pay them back for the brutal murder of Julius Caesar.

This leads to a furious and bloody battle at Philippi involving thousands and thousands of soldiers on both sides. Whew, I felt quite exhausted by the end of the book. The descriptions of the final battle scenes are very realistic. It's easy to imagine the deafening noise and the overpowering smells of such huge armies coming together with such ferocity.


I see from the notes at the end of the book that many of the characters were real as were some of the events related. This makes it even more of an excellent and gripping read.


I most highly recommend Peter Tonkin's latest historical book for anyone who enjoys an exciting story telling of the birth of the Roman Empire.

Reviewer:  Tricia Chappell

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. He has also written a series of Elizabethan mysteries. Since retiring from teaching he has written mysteries set in Ancient Rome and more recently a series set in Greece.

Tricia Chappell
. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

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