Not April Fools – Just 3 great Book Blogger reviews of Furies today

Posted: April 1, 2013 in Uncategorized


 Furies by DL Johnstone

Review by Leslie Gardener (AND Paul Morris below) on 

Opening the book, I was worried by the glossaries but I read them conscientiously: names, places and details of Alexandrine religious precepts; how would I recall them?

But, soon I realised I could relax: I was being looked after by the ingenious writer of this thriller. And, actually, those lists enhanced the experience, and only sometimes did I need to look something up – and, then, mostly because I was intrigued.

Using ideas of the time that yet seem all too familiar: betrayals, dodgy business partners, dirty politicians, faithless loves couched in this earlier terrain, Johnstone tells a story of murders and cultish Dionysian and sophistic practice, following the attractive if sometimes naive Aculeo who got into doldrums by relying on old friendships and risking colleagues’ monies and trust, to find the culprits. And they are extraordinary beings: we are lead into levels of society from highest priestly cults and brothels, to lowest life taverns and slave life.

In pursuit of his story, Johnstone has Aculeo charge off with reckless speed, and often on basis of vague evidence and a certain amount of coincidence. But we do not even notice the contrivance much; women are pivotal from the haughty wife who takes his child back home to papa when he fails, to glittering and powerful courtesans and powerful healers. But all need their coin. Thugs come at him and his friends from all sides – and he miraculously withstands much physical violence. Despite their humanity, the women are often guileful but we sense the writer is sensitive to their impossible historical position in this society, and he bends the plot and our sympathies to take this on board. When Aculeo is let down by a woman, like the courtesan Calisto, and then supported by a waif with surprising strengths, we are too. The plot is intricate, and the murders proliferate through a seedy and lawless Rome where leaders are corrupt and/or ignorant.

People weave in and out of the vast metropolis pretty easily, and sometimes it strains credibility when they manage to find each other. But, I’d say, we let it slide since we are focussed on what’s going to happen next. Overall, there is a good feeling of camaraderie and decency among these people as they debate who has wronged who, and some enticing philosophical explanations that fit in well. The writing is adept and allusive. There are others in this series that I will look out for.

Review by Paul Morris:

Set in the seamy Egyptian city of Alexandria during the times of ancient Rome this sword and sandals conspiracy thriller sees the lead character loses his wealth and family after staking his toga on two convoys of ships which are lost at sea. Or were they?

After a chance encounter with one of the supposed dead crew in the city he picks up the thread of a conspiracy that brings him into contact with the higher echelons of the city’s rulers from who he has fallen out of favour. Accompanied by a motley crew of fellow travellers, who were caught up in his financial web of disaster he starts out to ‘follow the money’ and maybe redeem his reputation.

As if losing his family and villa weren’t enough there’s a killer on the loose committing ritual murders. Could they be connected? A tense historical thriller that pulls the reader along. from a writer with an eye for rich historical detail and robust writing.

Rating: A tense historical thriller that pulls the reader along

Where To Buy:


D.L. Johnstone – Furies

“…the pungent and earthy dialogue makes it easy to feel immersed in first century life.”

Set in first century Alexandria, the story begins with Decimus Tarquitius Aculeo, a recently prosperous Roman man of business, looking around the wreckage of his life as his debtors clear his house and belongings, and his wife and beloved son are packing to return to Rome to leave him to his fate.

The man who caused this reversal of fortunes is assumed to be dead. Aculeo’s ruin has also meant the ruin of many of his business partners and contacts, making him very unpopular with his former friends. As Aculeo struggles to find out how he comes to be in this situation, mysterious deaths seem to follow him. Something sinister is happening which is linked to him.

Aculeo, along with some interesting accomplices, piece together the facts that emerge and the clever plot culminates in a surprising end.

I loved this book. The history was fascinating and well researched, the characters were engaging and often funny, the plot was intricate and well crafted.

In particular I enjoyed the dialogue. Graffiti seen at well-preserved Roman sites such as Pompey and the Forum in Rome show that ordinary people of the time were not so different to those of today. There is an immediate connection that links us to the past when we read everyday comments that could have been scrawled a few days ago instead of centuries earlier. D L Johnstone has caught the spirit of the banter and I think this helps to bring the story to life.

There are some interesting characters. I particularly liked the relationship that developed between Aculeo and Sekhet, the Egyptian healer. The glossary of Roman and Egyptian words was very helpful as there were some important nuances that I might have missed without it. Also, when the characters have unfamiliar names the Dramatis Personae is always useful.

As Aculeo moves through the city, the atmosphere and energy of Alexandria is vividly described. The historical facts about the city are there, but the power of description and particularly the pungent and earthy dialogue makes it easy to feel immersed in first century life.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:


  1. Karen Gold says:

    That’s gotta make you feel good!

    Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2013 00:10:35 +0000 To:

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