The Thieves of Ostia is the first book in The Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence.
Quick Review (read on for full review)
An entertaining, educational and engaging historical mystery for children. Also a quick, easy, fun read for adults. Highly recommended! 4.5 /5
Summary (from back of book)
Mystery and adventure for four young detectives in Ancient Roman times…
While investigating the disappearance of her father’s signet ring, Flavia Gemina makes some friends – Jonathon the Jewish boy, Nubia the African slave girl and Lupus the mute beggar boy. Together the friends start solving mysteries.
Can they discover who is killing dogs in Ostia, and why?
“All the wealth in the world is no good if you don’t have a family.”
(From The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence, page 44)
First, my thanks to Joy over at Tales of Eneana for recommending this book to me a few years ago. Having now read it, I wish I had come to it sooner!
I really enjoyed this book, and as I read, couldn’t help but wish this series had been around when I was growing up!
The setting was wonderfully described, from mosaics to frescos, from house design to the lighthouse. The ancient Roman port of Ostia was brought to life superbly. One of my favourite locations was the cemetery outside the town walls, and the descriptions of the tombs.
The characters were varied and from all different backgrounds and walks of life. I could easily imagine Flavia and her friends, Jonathon, Nubia and Lupus, as well as Mordecai and Captain Geminus. Flavia is clever but isn’t a show-off, which makes for nicely balanced character. She is also sympathetic and compassionate, which balances the cruelties of the Roman world with what we expect in a protagonist in a modern story.
Even though this is a children’s book, the story was engaging and gripping. It’s a quick read, one I didn’t want to put down. I loved that the chapters were called “scrolls” and that there was enough historical information in the story for it to be educational as well as fun.
I was a little surprised by some of the subjects covered in the storyline, which included the killing of dogs (which is never easy to read) and suicide, but these issues were handled sensitively. As were the issues of slavery and the loss of family members.
The next book in the series is The Secrets of Vesuvius, which I am keen to begin reading soon! Highly recommended.