I, Claudia by Marilyn Todd

I, Claudia by Marilyn Todd
A Claudia Seferius Mystery
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Historical
Length: Full Length (176 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Claudia Seferius has successfully flattered her way into marriage with a wealthy Roman wine merchant. But when her secret gambling debts spiral, she hits on another resourceful way to make money – offering her “personal services” to high-ranking Roman Citizens.

Unfortunately her clients are now turning up dead – the victims of a sadistic serial killer.

When Marcus Cornelius Orbilio, the handsome investigating officer, starts digging deep for clues, Claudia realizes she must track down the murderer herself – before her husband discovers what she’s been up to.

As the body count rises, Claudia must solve a series of disturbing murders. The biggest problem with this case is that the most relevant witnesses are dying off before Claudia can uncover what they know about the killer.

Claudia knows how to work the system and will take advantage of anyone if it will help her get ahead. With few exceptions the privileged members of this society run roughshod over everyone else without a twinge of remorse. The handful of scenes in which this doesn’t occur made me reevaluate the assumptions I made about a certain character early on in the plot, and I look forward to seeing how he evolves in the future.

Marriage is a business arrangement in this book. Claudia and her husband married for social and financial stability, and they are not sexually or emotionally attracted to one another. Their union definitely doesn’t conform to our modern day expectations of what it means to be a husband or wife, and I appreciate the author’s commitment to historical accuracy on this topic.

I would have liked to see more attention paid to Claudia’s character development. She repeatedly meets men who are instantly attracted to her and women who are her bitter rivals. Given Claudia’s narcissistic personality I don’t think these reactions are realistic. Yes, many people are initially attracted to strikingly beautiful women, but it doesn’t make sense for so many secondary characters to continue pursuing her once they realize that she’s only externally attractive.

The mystery Claudia rushes to solve is what drew me back into the plot. In retrospect, there were well-placed clues about the identity of the murderer early on, and after a few surprises along the way everything is wrapped up satisfactorily. The last few pages include a sample chapter of the next book in this series, and it whets my appetite for the adventures to come in Virgin Territory.

I, Claudia is an intriguing introduction to the life and times of a ruthless, intelligent woman living in a time and place that encourages her to be neither. It will be entertaining to see what happens to Claudia Seferius next, and I recommend this book for anyone looking for a light summer read.

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