Books

It is 45 BC. Julius Caesar is at the height of his power and the fortunes of the Fufidii and Scauri families are at a watershed. Quintus Fufidius agrees against his wife's instincts to the marriage of their daughter to Lucius Scaurus. It is an alliance which could heal old feuds and possibly create a new dynasty. Unknown to Quintus, the Scauri clan have proposed the betrothal to prevent their family from bankruptcy. But before the wedding takes place one of the principals is murdered. 

 

Suspects are few, but Roman society is shocked when Quintus' wife is accused, not only of murder, but also of incest. The trial of Helvia, in which she is defended by Cicero, is a courtroom battle on the grand scale and accompanied by the political shenanigans which result in Caesar's assassination. 

 

Joan O'Hagan has written a brilliantly evocative novel and a unique whodunnit, subtly combining the elements of a contemporary mystery with the atmosphere and style of ancient Rome.

A Roman Death

Books

Jerome & His Women
(Black Quill Press, 2015)

Rome, 382 AD. The Empire is fragile, the pagan

beliefs that sustained it are fading. One man stirs up controversy like no other − Jerome, or St Jerome as he came to be known. 

 

When the Pontiff, Damasus I, commissions Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin, it is a political masterstroke. Highly intelligent and classically trained, Jerome was fluent in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. His Latin Vulgate displaces the many alternative biblical texts and is the quintessence of Christianity as a world religion, with Rome at its centre. But his work was not his only challenge.

 

Jerome is assisted by a circle of aristocratic, educated Roman women who risk their lives in the pursuit of their ideals. Chief among them is the attractive young widow Paula, as devoted to him as she is to his cause. Rumours soon circulate as his enemies plot to dispose of him once and for all ...

A Roman Death
(Black Quill Press, 2017)

In the year 45 BC, Julius Caesar is at the height of his power and the fortunes of the Fufidii and Scauri families are at a watershed. Quintus Fufidius agrees against his wife's instincts to the marriage of their daughter to Lucius Scaurus. It is an alliance which could heal old feuds and possibly create a new dynasty. Unknown to Quintus, the Scauri clan have proposed the betrothal to prevent their family from bankruptcy. But before the wedding takes place one of the principals is murdered. 

 

Suspects are few, but Roman society is shocked when Quintus' wife is accused, not only of murder, but also of incest. The trial of Helvia, in which she is defended by Cicero, is a courtroom battle on the grand scale and accompanied by the political shenanigans which result in Caesar's assassination. 

 

Joan O'Hagan has written a brilliantly evocative novel and a unique whodunnit, subtly combining the elements of a contemporary mystery with the atmosphere and style of Ancient Rome.

Against The Grain
(Macmillan, 1987)

Alongside a uranium mining site in the Northern Territory of Australia, a plot of arable land has been secretly planted with an experimental wheat. 
Duquesne, an Australian scientist, had discovered the wheat 
and this extraordinary thriller is the account of his struggle against the machinations of powerful interests − American, Russian and (not least) those of Australian politicians − to prevent his discovery being stolen, or suppressed, or stolen to be suppressed. 

 

Frustrated by Australian bureaucratic muzzling of use of this discovery and unnerved by an unexplained attempt to kill him, Duquesne, together with Irina, the beautiful refugee who now shares his life, flees Australia with samples of his wheat. 

 

This is an outstanding thriller by a writer whose quality was recognised by reviewers in her earlier and very different crime novel, Death and a Madonna

Death and a Madonna
(Macmillan, 1986)

This is a classical detective novel: a group of characters is isolated in a Benedictine monastery on a mountain in Italy, after a rockfall has blocked the only access road. This formula is handled in a
most original manner, not least in the depth and quality of the characterisation, and the strands of love, conflict and anger that already exist between these people before violent death strikes.

Mowbray, brilliant but ageing art historian, has acquired a beautiful young wife, Raffaella.

To supplement his slender earnings, he has undertaken to lecture about Italian paintings to a 

group of women.

 

The detail of the plot is immensely intricate and  O'Hagan is successful in dangling one enormous clue under the reader's nose without much risk of anyone's spotting it. This is a very clever, dramatic whodunnit, a mosaic of intrigue and crime, its background a love of Italian art. 

Incline & Fall
(Angus & Robertson, 1976)

Stretton, the young interpreter at the New Zealand Migration Office in Rome, is found dead in his apartment. A half-empty bottle of whisky on the table and a typed confession of selling visas illegally, suggest suicide.

 

But McPherson, newly appointed head of the office, is not so sure, and when newspaper cuttings about a motor accident in Trieste and threatening letters begin arriving addressed to the dead man, his suspicions increase. Which memebers of his staff are being less than frank? What really happened that weekend when Stretton had been in Trieste with Worthington and Ward? 

 

Set against the background of diplomatic life in Rome, this fast-moving story of petty corruption that escalates into personal tragedy and violence, progresses with mounting tension to its unexpected climax.

 
 

© 2016 by Nozomi Nakano

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