Dying to be Roman is an alternate history novella that is both fun to read and a poignant reflection of our own world. Swifthook and Jago deliver on what alternate history does best in a fun and flirty murder mystery set in a Rome that never collapsed.
Dai and Julia are investigators. Dai is a Briton and a second-class citizen of a Roman-controlled Europe. When the murders involve the son of a Senator, Julia is brought in to oversee the case.
Now, I confess that Roman history is not my strength, so I’m unsure if the Point of Departure that enables Rome to endure for 2,000 years works. It’s unlikely the Roman Empire would have survived that long, so one must suspend disbelief, but not too much. The setting and characters are believable, interesting, and the story is fast-paced. So it’s easy to lose yourself in the narrative.
While on the surface, Dai and Julia must solve the mystery of the murders, Dying to be Roman is really about the inequalities of the elite vs everyone else, which can be mirrored onto our world. But what’s great about the story is that this theme carries on silent under the surface of the story, so that while the social commentary is there (important that it is), it still delivers on an entertaining and believable read. It’s a great alternate history and murder mystery mash-up!