Buried Too Deep

Buried Too Deep by Jane Finnis. Unfortunately, the third chronicle of the Aurelii in first century Britannia fails to live up to the excellence of the first two. Innkeeper Aurelia Marcella is back, as are her sister Albia, her brother-in-law Candidus, her brother, Lucius, the provincial investigator, and her lover, Quintus, the imperial investigator. Lucius and Quintus have been sent north because sea raiders from Gaul have been harassing the local population, both the natives and the Roman settlers. The pirates are working for one of the two major landowners in the area, either the greedy ex-legionnaire Ostorius Magnus and his three nephews or the Parisi tribal chief Bodvocus, supposedly loyal to Roman interests. The ultimate prize is a treasure of gold supposedly buried by the Aurelii patriarch many years earlier. With only two main suspects, this tale has less suspense than the previous ones and the final solution is disappointing.

Finnis’ strength is her character development, especially the introduction of interesting secondary characters, and she again shines in that regard. Returning from the army is young Victor, the son of Aurelia’s stable master. Victor has grown into a young man and takes on a new career in this episode. Because most of the action takes place in the wolds away from the mansio and town, we see very little of the pompous Chief Councillor Silvanius Clarus or of the enigmatic tracker Hawk. However, I suspect that new characters, such as the bold native girl, Balca, and perhaps the beautiful concubine Niobe, may reappear in the future. There’s a nice “Romeo and Juliet” subplot and the mysterious Rollus has possibilities as well.

As was the case with Ruth Downie’s latest Britannia mystery, Terra Incognita, which also takes place in the more remote areas of the province, I struggled to understand the geography and population density of the setting. At times, it seemed like neighbors were quite close, merely a short ride away. At other times, the spaces seemed quite enormous, where neighbors could act in isolation from each other and the raiders could hide quite easily. I don’t mark this as a failing of either author, just an observation.

I was surprised by the poor proofreading from the normally reliable Poisoned Pen Press. I counted at least four typos spread throughout the book.

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