Saturday, February 18, 2012

Review: The Slave-Girl from Jerusalem - Caroline Lawrence

The Slave-Girl from Jerusalem by Caroline Lawrence
Series: The Roman Mysteries #13
Genre: Middle Grade, historical fiction, mystery
Published on April 1, 2007
Published by Orion Children's Books
Pages: 230
Read From: 2.2.12 - 2.3.12

December, AD 80 
Ostia is gripped by a case of triple murder. The defendant seems the most unlikely criminal - a tragic and beautiful slave-girl with a haunted past. 

Who will defend the slave-girl? And is she really innocent? Justice must prevail in the courtroom, but it isn't easy when the vices and virtues of everyone concerned - even Flavia and her friends - are brought into question.


I have been a long-term fan of this series since I was about 10 years old. As a series, it is a wonderful set of mysteries filled with historical facts and exciting circumstances that any young Reader would love. There are certain volumes that are not entirely appropriate for the intended age group, and as the series has progressed, the stories have not been as engaging as earlier installments.

The Slave-Girl from Jerusalem - the 13th book in this series - is one of the less enchanting mysteries out of them all (and yes, I intend to write reviews for the others eventually, too). Having gone so many years without reading a new one, I was able to assess the elements of it with new eyes, having no childhood memories to associate with this particular book. While all of the characters are perfectly sound, and the mystery promised to be every bit as good as previous ones, I lost a lot of my positive outlook when I immediately knew who the guilty person was even before the first murder was committed. Even at the age of ten, I would have seen it right off. It then became a story that I grew impatient with as the characters hemmed and hawed over who was responsible for the deaths. And it bugged me to no end that the Author did not explain why everyone suddenly had the compulsion to write out a will.

But the Author pulls a fairly clever twist in the end, when the cause for the murders is revealed and it turns out that the murderer was in fact trying to frame the wrong person, and should have tried to blame a different character. While I easily guessed how everything would turn out, this little twist I was not expecting, nor the untimely death of a certain character we fans have known since the very first book, and for those two reasons alone I bumped this installment from the "ok" position to "liked it" position.

As far as the characters themselves go, Flavia is as always an intelligent young girl, but who acts way younger than her actual age. It's more than a little disturbing that Flaccus, who is in his early twenties, would love her, when she does not at all behave maturely. Lupus, the mute boy, continues to be my least-favorite out of the four friends; there is something about his personality that always rubbed me the wrong way. While I absolutely love his character's backstory, it's hard to ignore his extremely quick temper and touchiness. And of course, Nubia is the best one out of them all: level-headed, quiet, gentle, perceptive. I have never grown tired of her, like I have with the others, including Jonathan.

This was not, in conclusion, the best "episode" in the series, but I have hopes that the next one will be quite a bit better.

Others in The Roman Mysteries Series:
1)The Thieves of Ostia
2)The Secrets of Vesuvius
3)The Pirates of Pompeii
4)The Assassins of Rome
5)The Dolphins of Laurentum
6)The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina
7)The Enemies of Jupiter
8)The Gladiators from Capua
9)The Colossus of Rhodes
10)The Fugitive from Corinth
11)The Sirens of Surrentum
12)The Charioteer of Delphi
13)The Slave-Girl from Jerusalem
14)The Beggar of Volubilis
15)The Scribes from Alexandria
16)The Prophet from Ephesus
17)The Man from Pomegranate Street

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