Now starring Libertus’ son, Junio…
Rosemary Rowe’s The Rewards of Treachery is another excellent entry in her Libertus series – although in Treachery, the focus shifts from Libertus, who fled Glevum at the end of the previous book, to Libertus’ adopted son, Junio, who has taken up his father’s mosaic business, and also more-or-less inherited his father’s patron, Marcus Septimus. And with Marcus as a patron, Junio has also inherited – unwillingly – the assumption that he, like Libertus, will conduct investigations on Marcus’ behalf.
This case starts rather simply. Marcus would like Junio to investigate the disappearance of his wife’s jeweled cloak-clasp, which went missing while being repaired. And apparently, the jeweler who was repairing it has also gone missing. No matter that Junio’s wife, Cilla, is quite literally about to have a baby – Junio can’t afford to ignore Marcus, and he heads into town to hear the entire tale. However, things quickly get more complicated. Did the mysterious slave at the jeweler’s shop early that morning have anything to do with it? Or perhaps the local Silurians, who resent the Roman writ over all gold and silver mines, are involved? What about the oddly-familiar looking Celt who showed up at Junio’s house bearing a message? Of course, there’s tension drifting in from Rome as well, with the recent accession of Severus Septimius turning things upside down yet again, and with political changes making their way even to Roman Britain, at the far edges of the Empire.
Eventually, though, Junio manages to sort out the multiple tangled threads, and even more importantly, figure out which parts of the story can be safely shared with Marcus and which should be glossed over – or outright omitted – in the telling. As always, Rowe weaves a tight plot, while also putting readers in the middle of the lives of her characters, showing both the grit (the often casually abusive treatment of slaves, the dangers of childbirth) and the moments of happiness (Cilla and Junio have a healthy new baby boy). And there’s some bitter-sweet news in the epilogue too.
On a personal level, having enjoyed the Libertus books for decades, I have my fingers crossed that there will be more books to come with Junio and his family/friends as the leads – setting the hints in the epilogue aside. Although if Rowe does decide to end the series here, The Rewards of Treachery makes a fine final book. But I very much hope that’s not the case! And last but not least, I want to express my thanks to Severn House and NetGalley for the advance review copy.