The Governor’s man by Jacquie Rogers

Set in Roman Britannia, this book has an intriguing beginning. A messenger is accosted by two men who cut off his head. They are not common robbers. They only want the message. One of them puts something in the dead boy’s mouth before tossing the head into the bushes.

The story is taken up two months earlier when Frumentarius (investigator) Quintus Valerius returns to Rome to find his wife gone, along with all the furniture and slaves, and a notice of divorce awaiting him. He asks his brother-in-law to sell the house and send the proceeds to his mother. Free of encumbrances, he is soon on his way to Britannia to investigate why money from the imperial mines has suddenly dwindled. The governor in Britannia is Gaius Trebonius, who had once saved his life and who he trusts. Trebonius gives him as an assistant, Tyro a native just released from the drunk tank. Quintus sees him as more of an encumbrance than an asset, while Tyro views the investigator as a stiff-necked toff.

Although the pair start out looking for the Emperor’s missing money, they are soon involved in two murders, the second possibly incited by the White Ones, Druids who were thought to have been wiped out a century earlier. As well, the tribes are stirring, a revolt is in the air.

All of which is complicated by Quintus’s guilt over his inability to save his brother and his painful history with Julia who he meets on the way to the mine. Thirteen years earlier, they fell in love but Quintus was called home to Rome to deal with a family scandal and left without knowing she was pregnant. The relationship is fraught with tension because one is resentful and the other is determined not to get involved again. Deeper feelings and further complications run through their encounters.

The book is a reflection of how unsettled life was in Roman Britannia. It is a complex story with many threads that the author weaves together deftly. There is enough going on to fill two or three novels, but I have to say, I was never confused.

An excellent book that I believe will interest more than just those who like to delve into the Roman world.

*****

Jacquie Rogers had several careers, including advertising and university lecturing, before finding writing suited her best. Her short stories have been published in several countries. In 2020 she was Runner Up in the Lincoln Book Festival story competition.

‘The Governor’s Man’ is the first in her series of novels set in 3rd century Roman Britain, published in May 2021 by Sharpe Books.

After a nomadic existence for most of her life, Jacquie now lives in the Malvern Hills of England. She walks the hills daily with her husband Peter and their frantic Staffie-cross, Peggy. When pandemics permit, Jacquie loves to travel by motorbike and enjoys discussing politics, travel and books with friends and family. She spends a lot of time in cafes and pubs.

Jacquie blogs at jacquierogersauthor.com YouTube: The Governor’s Man by Jacquie Rogers

Other connections: linktr.ee/jacquierogers

Charlie Smithers’ Adventures in Arran by C.W. Lovatt

Charlie Smithers appeared in Dolly Pleasance, a book I recently reviewed, but he is the protagonist in several of the author’s other books. In this, the latest, my interest was snared by the pandemonium that ensued after a sneeze or two. At the same time, secondary characters and the villains of the piece were introduced. The book has the strangest opening sentence I have ever come across. Here it is: UNGUPHSHEW!

Our hero is summoned by the Home Secretary and given a mission which takes him to Arran in Scotland, along with a sidekick, a master of disguise who proves very useful. The villainous Germans are there attempting to thwart him. He is on the trail of gold and a mysterious package, and there are many adventures and setbacks along the way. It’s pretty violent in places but tongue-in-cheek with oodles of humour.

Charlie is a likeable character, but I couldn’t quite equate him with the character in Dolly Pleasance. They seemed like two very different people. The secondary characters are interesting, particularly Charlie’s employer, the sneezer, and the villains are suitably villainous.

How a gentleman’s gentleman became a tool of the British Government is not explained. I suggest, unlike me, reading the first book first to get the answer to this question and a full sense of the characters, although this book works well as a stand-alone.

Recommended for those who like a dash of humour in their thrillers.

****

CW Lovatt is the award-winning author of the best-selling Charlie Smithers novels (including the spinoff, “Dolly Pleasance”), as well as the critically acclaimed Josiah Stubb Trilogy. His latest novel, “Adventures in Arran” is the fourth book of the Charlie Smithers Collection.

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