Rubies of the Viper
by Martha Marks

Martha's Art, 2010. ISBN 978-0-979-51934-5.
Reviewed by Rhonda Esakov
Posted on 05/23/2011

Fiction: Historical; Fiction: Mystery

If I were to select a book of the year to read, Rubies of the Viper by Martha Marks, would be in the running for top choice. A craftful mix of mystery, suspence and history, salted with a touch of human fallibility, this book is sure to catch and hold the attention of the reader, mayhap even to drag one into an all night reading frenzy. Yes, it is that good.

The murder of an influential man of the ruling peerage occurs in the early Imperial Roman Empire. In first century Rome and Syria, the privileged classes can and do commit atrocities such as enslavement and repression and are notorious for suppression of women's liberties. Wanting to find the cause of her brother's murder, which resulted in her unique inheritance, one woman uses her wits and fleeting peer privilege to delve deep into the mystery. Combating prejudice and preconceived notions of propriety, the main character, Theodosia, fights her conscience as well as the accepted norms in a battle not only to justify her brother's death and claim her rights and inheritance, but also to follow her heart. "Afraid of her own emotions...Afraid of what her peers would say...Afraid of losing her chance for a good marriage...Afraid of what a sexual relationship..." Little did she know that she should have been afraid for her life!

As some of the era's ruling leaders connive ways to acquire Theodosia's body, status and material wealth, she continues fighting for slave rights, while falling in love with or caring for their well being, and searching for a killer. All this takes place while fighting off the advances of men vying for marriage—or rather her money and land. Populated with strong believable characters and illustrated with word pictures that put you into the streets, homes and countryside of ancient Rome, this story is the journey of a woman's life and struggles that make you feel you are there with her but would not want to really have suffered the atrocities of the time. Well-researched history and emotions created with empathy make this a story that will engage your mind and grab your heart without suffering through a long boring history lesson.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Martha Marks earned her Ph.D. in Spanish linguistics & literature at Northwestern University and subsequently served on the faculties of Kalamazoo College and Northwestern University. She's the co-author of three college Spanish textbooks published by McGraw Hill. Since her retirement from academia, photographing wildlife and other natural subjects and writing fiction have become her favorite creative outlets. Marks is a member of the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative. She is married to retired advertising-marketing guru Bernard Marks and they enjoy traveling, painting, and photographing. Readers are welcomed to enjoy more of her work by visiting her website.

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