Virgin Territory by Marilyn Todd

VIRGIN
Virgin Territory by Marilyn Todd
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Historical
Length: Full Length (190 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

It just wasn’t fair. When you marry a man for his money, you expect him to leave you a shining pile of gold pieces. Not a crummy old wine business. How was the new young widow Claudia going to pay off her gambling debts now?

So when Eugenius Collatinus asks Claudia to chaperone his granddaughter to Sicily she jumps at the chance to escape Rome. It should be easy–Sabina Collatinus, she is told, has recently completed thirty years’ service as a Vestal Virgin.

Or has she…?

Claudia suspects she is escorting an impostor. And then a woman’s brutalized body is discovered…

Making promises is so much easier than following through with them. If only Claudia had known exactly what she was getting into when she first agreed to be Sabina’s chaperone.

The vivid descriptions of the food, clothing, homes, and social customs in Claudia’s world made me feel as if I was living in ancient Sicily. Some of the socially acceptable customs at this time and place are considered extremely immoral in the twenty-first century. Including these scenes in this piece without imposing modern day values on them adds authenticity to the plot.

Once again Claudia is portrayed as a woman who is an intense object of desire to almost every man she meets. In the future I would be quite curious to see if Ms. Todd intends this to be another sign of Claudia’s narcissism or if she is actually that irresistible to such a wide selection of men. There are a few scenes in this story that make me think some of Claudia’s interpretation of other people’s thoughts and reactions are meant to show her self-centered tendencies. I hope future Claudia mysteries explore this possible plot twist in further detail.

Virgin Territory can easily be a standalone novel, but as someone who has read the first book in the series, I, Claudia, I was pleasantly surprised by how the main character has changed in the interim. Claudia’s lack of character development was one of the criticisms I mentioned in my first review. While she doesn’t show as much personal growth in her second adventure as I would have preferred to see, there were a few key scenes in this plot that demonstrate that she is aware of her environment and is slowly changing as a result of her experiences.

The mystery in this tale was well paced and thrilling, though. Every time I thought I’d pinned down the killer or figured out Sabina’s true identity Ms. Todd introduced new clues that upended all of my theories. Her ability to slowly dole out the truth to the reader in such a way that one never knows what to expect next makes me want to read everything this author has ever written.

Virgin Territory kept me guessing until the very end. I look forward to reading more installments of this series, and I recommend this book to anyone who loves a mystery that is full of surprises.

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