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Fortune's Fool: A Sixth Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger

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On the shores of beautiful Lake Como in Roman Italy, a Greek tragedy has taken place. Twenty years later, a skeleton falls out of a wall in Pliny's villa, bearing mute witness to family secrets and crimes. Pliny the Younger is intelligent about everything but women. He agrees to his wife's and mother's wishes to marry off his lover, Aurora, to another slave, but neglects t On the shores of beautiful Lake Como in Roman Italy, a Greek tragedy has taken place. Twenty years later, a skeleton falls out of a wall in Pliny's villa, bearing mute witness to family secrets and crimes. Pliny the Younger is intelligent about everything but women. He agrees to his wife's and mother's wishes to marry off his lover, Aurora, to another slave, but neglects telling her until the wedding! To add to his problems, when building a wing onto his Lake Como villa, workmen discover a skeleton. As is Pliny's habit, he launches a scientific investigation of the crime, but soon receives anonymous warnings and threats to cease. Then his wife, Livia, is kidnapped! - As in the earlier books, a glossary of Roman terms and a list of historic and fictional characters are included


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On the shores of beautiful Lake Como in Roman Italy, a Greek tragedy has taken place. Twenty years later, a skeleton falls out of a wall in Pliny's villa, bearing mute witness to family secrets and crimes. Pliny the Younger is intelligent about everything but women. He agrees to his wife's and mother's wishes to marry off his lover, Aurora, to another slave, but neglects t On the shores of beautiful Lake Como in Roman Italy, a Greek tragedy has taken place. Twenty years later, a skeleton falls out of a wall in Pliny's villa, bearing mute witness to family secrets and crimes. Pliny the Younger is intelligent about everything but women. He agrees to his wife's and mother's wishes to marry off his lover, Aurora, to another slave, but neglects telling her until the wedding! To add to his problems, when building a wing onto his Lake Como villa, workmen discover a skeleton. As is Pliny's habit, he launches a scientific investigation of the crime, but soon receives anonymous warnings and threats to cease. Then his wife, Livia, is kidnapped! - As in the earlier books, a glossary of Roman terms and a list of historic and fictional characters are included

30 review for Fortune's Fool: A Sixth Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Juniper

    Am reading them out of order. I liked this book. Good characters and interesting storyline. Keeps one's interest. And the plot moves along quite quickly. Am reading them out of order. I liked this book. Good characters and interesting storyline. Keeps one's interest. And the plot moves along quite quickly.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rob Phillips

    This book is not so bad and was welcome after the third book in the series, except for a subplot dealing with the uncovering of past perverse treatment of young boys. The author tends to leave things up to the readers mind without explicit details like an early crime/suspense movie, but suggests things you would rather not entertain in the first place. This said, all in all, having now read four books from the series, I'm content enough with the good parts I've read that I do not see there is mu This book is not so bad and was welcome after the third book in the series, except for a subplot dealing with the uncovering of past perverse treatment of young boys. The author tends to leave things up to the readers mind without explicit details like an early crime/suspense movie, but suggests things you would rather not entertain in the first place. This said, all in all, having now read four books from the series, I'm content enough with the good parts I've read that I do not see there is much more to gain at this point, especially from more of the dark/negative parts, and watching the series go downhill. To quote another reviewer of another book on amazon, 'I was too 'butthurt' (too)when Fenchurch was written out of the Hitchhikers' guide, and quit reading book four.' I could have read the first two and been perfectly happy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Argum

    Pliny is adjusting to marriage poorly. Livia has demanded Aurora be married off. Pliny finds her a compliant husband who served the same role for his uncle. To that end he also learns he has a cousin. Meanwhile, Livia wants the family home expanded and oops a dead body drops out of the wall. Pliny of course feels compelled to find the identity. Someone disagrees and to prove the point Livia is kidnapped. Excellent theme of Fortune in this entry. The past and present mirror as the wheel of fortun Pliny is adjusting to marriage poorly. Livia has demanded Aurora be married off. Pliny finds her a compliant husband who served the same role for his uncle. To that end he also learns he has a cousin. Meanwhile, Livia wants the family home expanded and oops a dead body drops out of the wall. Pliny of course feels compelled to find the identity. Someone disagrees and to prove the point Livia is kidnapped. Excellent theme of Fortune in this entry. The past and present mirror as the wheel of fortune turns which Pliny reflects on throughout. Aurora's growing role is also fun. Enjoyed how the author's note explained that some of these new characters are at least possibly real.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    Series just keeps getting better Every book is better than the last. Usually I hope an author can just keep things going for me to enjoy 3 or 4 books. But Mr Bell has done a fabulous job and as I said I the books keep getting better.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    Good book. Interesting plot. Liked the characters.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Another delightful Pliny the Younger mystery. In this outing, while remodeling his property at the behest of his wife, Livia, while demolishing a wall, a skeleton falls out. Who is this person and who has put him there? Pliny and his mistress, Aurora, figure out that this body has been in there for 20 years. This leads to the families both of Pliny and of his wife and little by little more metaphorical skeletons fall out of closets--family secrets that have been buried. At one point, Livia is ki Another delightful Pliny the Younger mystery. In this outing, while remodeling his property at the behest of his wife, Livia, while demolishing a wall, a skeleton falls out. Who is this person and who has put him there? Pliny and his mistress, Aurora, figure out that this body has been in there for 20 years. This leads to the families both of Pliny and of his wife and little by little more metaphorical skeletons fall out of closets--family secrets that have been buried. At one point, Livia is kidnapped and there is a scramble to get her back. The kidnappers want not monetary ransom but a certain document. There's also a sinister abandoned villa, the Fox's Den, and a taberna and its proprietor, Lutulla, that play important parts in the novel. A convoluted but ultimately satisfying mystery is finally solved. I liked the author's notes about who was fictional, e.g., Aurora, and who really lived, e.g., Romatius Firmus, who grew up with Pliny and was a lifelong friend. The epilogue consists of one of Pliny's "Letters" addressed to him. I wondered, as with the novel concerning Pliny's estate at Laurentum, The Corpus Conundrum: A Third Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger [love that title!], if the author had used his own translation of the Pliny letter here, as he did with the one describing Pliny's Laurentine villa. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jane Irish Nelson

    Pliny, along with his family and friends, is visiting his long-neglected estate near what is now known as Lake Como. At the urging of his wife, Livia, and her mother, he begins to enlarge the house. But while removing a wall his father had had built twenty years earlier, a skeleton is discovered. This sets in motion a series of mysterious events that include Livia's kidnapping. Pliny is determined to rescue her, and discover the culprits despite any danger. This is a fascinating addition to an en Pliny, along with his family and friends, is visiting his long-neglected estate near what is now known as Lake Como. At the urging of his wife, Livia, and her mother, he begins to enlarge the house. But while removing a wall his father had had built twenty years earlier, a skeleton is discovered. This sets in motion a series of mysterious events that include Livia's kidnapping. Pliny is determined to rescue her, and discover the culprits despite any danger. This is a fascinating addition to an enjoyable series, replete with interesting and believable characters, who act and interact in understandable ways, despite being set during the heyday of the Roman Empire. The historical background is presented in a way that enhances the story, making the reader long for more. Highly recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tonym

  9. 4 out of 5

    Violetta Signore

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sevag Sarmazian

  11. 5 out of 5

    Williamandlynn

  12. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Jarok

  13. 4 out of 5

    patricia gonzalez

  14. 5 out of 5

    Regis Rodrigues

  15. 5 out of 5

    Luke Rogers

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike Zirpoli

  17. 5 out of 5

    William H. Scott

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lena_makridina

  19. 4 out of 5

    george d crane

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Maxwell

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robin

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I won this book on Goodreads. It is 6th in the series about Pliny who has to face his family's deceitful past when he finds a skeleton in a wall on his estate. This book is set during the Roman times. I won this book on Goodreads. It is 6th in the series about Pliny who has to face his family's deceitful past when he finds a skeleton in a wall on his estate. This book is set during the Roman times.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lou Ann

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael Tielman

  27. 4 out of 5

    george dennis

  28. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Phillips

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kgwhitehurst

    Within and under an intricately plotted murder mystery is a novel that delves into the nature of power, particularly domestic power, and how it can (and will) corrupt if the holder does not restrain him/herself. In this stance, the novel itself adheres to Gaius Plinius Secudnus's own philosophy, Stoicism. While its origins are Greek, Stoicism was widely adopted within the Roman world. It concerns itself with duty and obligation, but also restraint and mindfulness. All of these elements are prese Within and under an intricately plotted murder mystery is a novel that delves into the nature of power, particularly domestic power, and how it can (and will) corrupt if the holder does not restrain him/herself. In this stance, the novel itself adheres to Gaius Plinius Secudnus's own philosophy, Stoicism. While its origins are Greek, Stoicism was widely adopted within the Roman world. It concerns itself with duty and obligation, but also restraint and mindfulness. All of these elements are present within Pliny the Younger, who is pulled in multiple emotional directions as he tries to fulfill all of his obligations--to his mother, to his wife, to his lover, to his familia, even to the dead man he finds in immured in his villa. Duty opens the novel as Pliny, along with much of his familia plus Cornelius Tacitus and his wife, Julia, travel to the least of Pliny's estates. He's neglected this poor estate along the shores of Lake Comum for years, and it shows in its rather dilapidated state. His wife Livia and her mother follow a day or two later. Pliny's mother is ill and fragile whilst his slave-lover, Aurora, whom he treats as a near equal, must be married off at the demand of his wife. Which duty is most important? He starts with marrying Aurora to another slave, Felix, but this cover does not satisfy the domineering and perpetually antagonist Livia. Neither does the meanness of the villa. To placate his wife, part of whose distress derives from the fact her father drown in the lake twenty years before, Pliny begins an expansion of the villa, only to discover a skeleton in one wall. Who was this man? How did he come to be inside a wall of Pliny's father's home? Pliny is guiltily relieved to have a mystery to solve--until his investigation results in uncovering a ring of pederasts and the sordid dealings of his family, including his father, his uncle, and an unacknowledged bastard cousin. It results in the kidnapping of Livia. As much as he loathes her, he is duty-bound to rescue her. So doing results in arson and more murder. Someone is quite determined to keep secrets, even to the point of murdering Pliny himself. The power relationships in this novel within and without the household are fascinating. They also determine the course of this mystery and provide a window on those relationships within the Roman world. The paterfamilias, the oldest, free male, was at the pinnacle of the familia, the whole household. He held the power of life and death over the familia, accepted or rejected children. Bastards might or might not be recognized; thus, Pliny the Elder was perfectly within in his rights not to acknowledge his by his slave-lover. (This bitter irony is not lost on Pliny the Younger.) The paterfamilias married children to suit family, not individual, needs. He could sell children into slavery—as Aurora and her mother were sold by her father. He could punish a family member, free or slave, in whatever fashion he deemed appropriate, even putting a family member to death. Naturally, the slaves, were at the bottom of the power pyramid, numerous but essentially powerless. Those without protection of a patron within the familia, or those without skill, or children could be in serious danger--even in a familia headed by someone as mindful and benevolent as Pliny. He understands the checks on his power--to be remembered fondly, to be taken care of in his old age, to not make the gods angry--but not all masters did. If Aurora’s own sale, dictated by debt, were not painful enough, the fate of the slave Felix, who was castrated by a former master before being sold, is a brutal reminder of this household power—as is Pliny’s own decision to order Aurora’s marriage to Felix. The separation, if not the isolation, of women within the household was stark. At the pinnacle of the female world, was the materfamilias, in this case, Pliny's mother and Livia's mother. They are the two oldest free women in Pliny's household. Cousins, they have charge of this interior world. Aurora's point of view has been expanded to show this female world which Pliny himself would only have an incomplete view. (It also helps develop Aurora's character and her place as Pliny's sleuthing partner.) Class and status complicate Aurora's growing friendship with Julia. She is a slave; Julia, as the daughter of Agricola and Tacitus's wife, is both free and noble. “I was almost offended by her [Julia’s] request, until I reminded myself that weren’t really friends, no matter how friendly we might have been over the last few days. I was a slave, who could be ordered to do anything Julia wanted” (94). In public, they must keep to their places, yet privately, they behave as friends, discussing things such as pregnancy, love, murder, and Livia. Julia even stands up for Aurora as the wedding. Unlike Julia, Livia is in a terrible position. She's been married, twice, to men she does not, cannot love, or even like. With Pliny, she's wife in name only, largely due to her abrasive and hostile nature. There will be no children, which diminishes her and her position within the family. She can only vent her resentment so much on Pliny before he refuses to deal with her. In truth, she should not express any of it to him because as a wife, she must grin and bear whatever humiliations he heaps upon her—as her mother and his mother have done before her. Instead, she targets those below her in station such as artisans, freedmen, and slaves, like Aurora. Livia’s hatred is genuine and potentially fatal. Aurora takes what steps she can to avoid her master's wife. All of this said, Livia does verge on being a caricature, with some heavy-handed dialogue between Pliny and Tacitus concerning her that suggests broad Roman comedy tropes. This novel is packed with it all--compelling, complex plotting, keen historical observation, painful irony and pathos, and broad Roman humor. All in all, FORTUNE'S FOOL is a superb entry into the continuing adventures of Gaius Plinius Secundus.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Betty Guarraia

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