The Sewer Demon: The Roman Mystery Scrolls by Caroline Lawrence
|The Sewer Demon: The Roman Mystery Scrolls by Caroline Lawrence|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Threptus used to be a beggar, but now he works with Floridius the soothsayer. In this first story in the new Roman Mystery Scrolls, which has been written for younger readers, he goes down into the sewers, outwits the law and some bullies, and helps solve the mystery of the demon.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 112||Date: February 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
Fans of Caroline Lawrence's earlier series of mysteries set in Ancient Rome have enjoyed both the thrilling adventures of the four young friends, and the authentic detail which brought those stories so vividly to life. And now, with the adventures of Threptus, readers from about six or seven years of age can enjoy the same delights.
Sometimes the titles of books seem chosen to mislead or confuse the reader, or to divert their attention from the solution to a mystery. But here, there is no doubt: this tale is uncompromisingly about . . . poo. Threptus and his master hide, early on in the story, in the public latrines, which gives Ms Lawrence the opportunity to describe in copious and colourful detail the sanitary arrangements of the Ostians. And thanks to an unfortunate set of circumstances, our hero apprentice gets even closer to the , er, product of his investigations, poor lad. Sponge sticks and chamber pots abound, and eventually the only thing his master Floridius can do with him is march him to the sea shore and give him a thorough dunking, despite the November weather. Children will absolutely love it.
The previous series centred around four young people in Rome. During the course of the books they lived through dramatic events like the eruption of Vesuvius, and dealt with issues as varied as marriage, slavery and gladiatorial combat. And at the end of the final book Lupus encountered a young beggar who was sleeping in the graveyard, and advised him to make more of his life. Obviously his influence was effective, and when we next meet Threptus, in this new book, he has managed to find himself an apprenticeship with Floridius in the port of Ostia. The chubby soothsayer is a bit of a rogue, running from the authorities because he doesn't have a licence to sell in the market square, and persuading gullible and superstitious householders to buy his cut-price, one-time-only-offer amulets to protect them from demons. The relationship between the two is charming, and a strength of the book: Threptus is sufficiently streetwise to find good hiding places, and Floridius provides a home and stability. Add to the mix a loquacious black chicken, and a new team of mystery solvers is born.
This new series will probably be enjoyed most by readers at the younger end of the age range: each episode in the book is a simple, uncomplicated scene without too much in the way of evil or danger, and with generous dollops of humour. The thrills of the books for the older age range are here replaced by the gross-out factor, and amid the squeals of disgust young people will pick up a goodly amount of information about life in Roman times. The most enthusiastic will even welcome half-term visits to museums, in the hope of discovering more of the same. A couple of warnings: brave will be the teacher who agrees to read this story aloud to the class: best keep that treat until Friday afternoon! And parents too need to be wary: your children will be unable to resist reading some of the more aromatic scenes aloud to you, so great will be their delight, and this will definitely be a time to introduce the 'No reading at the table' rule if you have not already done so. Even so, you may find yourself being quizzed on the flatulence-causing properties of cheese.
Slightly older fans of history-mysteries will turn to Caroline Lawrence's previous series. Bookbag particularly recommends The Prophet from Ephesus. And if you fancy a more contemporary detective story, try Damian Drooth, Supersleuth: Football Forgery by Barbara Mitchelhill which once again gives you exactly what it says on the tin.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Sewer Demon: The Roman Mystery Scrolls by Caroline Lawrence at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Sewer Demon: The Roman Mystery Scrolls by Caroline Lawrence at Amazon.com.
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