I read this book a while ago. It was good but a bit confusing especially if you do not have a good grounding in Roman history. There is family history chart in the front that helps. I have more of his books to read to see if they get better. May favorite authors for Roman mysteries are Steven Saylor and Lindsay Davis.
I really liked this book, and yes, you do need to keep referring back to the historical information to keep up with the political machinations, but it all comes clear at the end. I like the contemporary tone and language. I did not see anything that was anachronistic, however. Young Corvinus is a gumshoe in the style of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, complete with beautiful dames, thugs and ruffians, criminal masterminds, lots of drinking and hangovers...and of course, murder!
A good addition to the various series of Roman historical murder mysteries. In this first book, Marcus Valerius Messala Corvinus, a young Roman aristocratic smartass slacker with no political or other ambitions beyond having another cup (or jug) of wine, is persuaded by a beautiful young woman to help solve a mystery. The problem is why are she and her mother not allowed to bring home the ashes of her stepfather, Ovid, a poet exiled for (as far as anyone seems to know) saying politically incorrect things in verse. Now that he's died in exile, why is there any difficulty? Much revelation of conniving and double-dealing ensues, and as a bonus, we have an encounter with Livia, widow of the late Divine Emperor Augustus, and she's just as scary as you may remember from "I, Claudius" on PBS.