Death in the Ashes
The Notebooks of Pliny the Younger by Albert A. Bell, Jr.
Review: Pliny the Younger travels from Rome to Naples when an old family friend is accused of murder — and refuses to defend himself — in Death in the Ashes, the fourth mystery in this series by Albert A. Bell, Jr.
Calpurnius, whose much younger wife Aurelia is about ready to give birth to their child, is accused of killing a freedwoman, who worked in the kitchen of the household. Calpurnius was found standing over the body, holding the murder weapon, a knife, in his hand. But two days have gone by since the crime was committed and it will be at least that much time before Pliny can reach the home of Calpurnius and Aurelia. In four days, any evidence that might help acquit Calpurnius would be gone. Still, with Pliny's court case in which he is representing his future mother-in-law, who is accusing someone of stealing from her late husband's estate, postponed he has the time to investigate. With his good friend and scribe accompanying him, he leaves for Naples with the hope that he can save his friend.
Death in the Ashes is a very entertaining whodunit-style mystery, set in ancient Rome but written in a contemporary manner. (A helpful appendix includes a cast of characters as well as definitions for some of the words used in the narrative.) Though an aristocrat himself, Pliny seems to have a way with the commoners, who respect his position but also defer to it. The Italian countryside provides a backdrop to the proceedings, most particularly Mount Vesuvius, which had erupted east of Naples several years earlier. (A historical note: the only surviving eyewitness account to the event was penned by none other than Pliny the Younger; his memory of the catastrophe plays a role in his investigation here.) The motive for the murder isn't all that original, but Pliny's handling of the culprit is cleverly accomplished. Though well into the series at this point, Death in the Ashes can easily be read as a stand-alone; yhere is a bit of an amusing cliffhanger at the end that involves Pliny though not his investigation of or resolution to the murder.
Acknowledgment: Perseverance Press provided an ARC of Death in the Ashes for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Death in the Ashes: Rome, Naples, Italy
— ♦ —
Death in the Ashes by Albert A. Bell, Jr. — The Notebooks of Pliny the Younger
Publisher: Perseverance Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: September 2013
List Price: $15.95
— ♦ —
Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
Mysterious Reviews is a Division of
The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books
and a Business Unit of the
Omnimystery Family of Mystery Websites