SPQR Books in Order: How to read John Maddox Roberts’s series?

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A collection of historical mystery stories written by John Maddox Roberts, the SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus) series is set in the time of the Roman Republic. Told by Senator Decius Caecilius Metellus, an investigator determined to uncover the corruption running rampant in the highest levels of the Roman Republic government, the stories are about conspiracies and murder mysteries taking place from 70 BC to 20 BC.

How to read the SPQR Series in Order?

Every entry in the SPQR book series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.

  1. The King’s Gambit – Vicious gangs ruled the streets of Crassus and Pompey, routinely preying on plebeian and patrician alike, so the garroting of a lowly ex-slaved and the disembowelment of a foreign merchant in the dangerous Subura district seemed of little consequence to the Roman hierarchy. But Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger–highborn commander of the local vigils–was determined to investigate.
  2. The Catiline Conspiracy – It was a summer of glorious triumph for the mighty Roman Republic. Her invincible legions had brought all foreign enemies to their knees. But in Rome there was no peace. The streets were flooded with the blood of murdered citizens, and there were rumors of more atrocities to come. Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger was convinced a conspiracy existed to overthrow the government–a sinister cabal that could only be destroyed from within.
  3. The Sacrilege – When a sacred woman’s rite in the ancient city of Rome is infiltrated by a corrupt patrician dressed in female garb, it falls to Senator Decuis Caecilius Metellus the Younger, whose investigative skills have proven indispensable in the past, to unmask the perpetrators. When four brutal slayings follow, Decius enlists the help of a notorious and dangerous criminal.
  1. The Temple of the Muses – When Roman junior senator Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger has a chance to join a diplomatic mission to Alexandria, he welcomes the opportunity to temporarily elude his enemies in the Eternal City-even though it means leaving his beloved Rome. Decius is just beginning to enjoy the outpost’s many exotic pleasures when the suspicious death of an irascible philosopher occurs, coinciding with the puzzling and apocalyptic ravings of a charismatic cult leader.
  2. Saturnalia – Decius has won himself a reputation as both an investigator and, most unfortunately, a bit of a playboy. Having been banished by his family for sometimes embarrassing activities to a rather leisurely lifestyle on Rhodes, he is puzzled to be suddenly and unexpectedly summoned home to assist in an investigation.
  3. Nobody Loves a Centurion – When Vinius, the army’s cruelest centurion is found murdered, Caesar remembers that his new recruit has successfully come up with the culprit in a number of recent crimes. Murder is bad for morale, particularly since it seems quite clear that the murderer was one of Caesar’s men. Caesar orders Decius to find the killer – and quickly.
  1. The Tribune’s Curse – On the day he and his troops set out from Rome, the Tribune Ateius Capitus, leader of the opposition, shrieks an ancient and terrible curse over the huge crowd assembled — a curse that frightens not only the man in the street but the highest Romans. When Ateius is murdered soon after, Decius, the solver of past mysteries, has the ugly task of finding the killer.
  2. The River God’s Vengeance – Decius Caecilius Metellus has, through a series of rather wild adventures, and in the act of tracking down killers and other reprobates, barely escaped annihilation several times. Now, newly elected to the office of aedile, the lowest rung on the ladder of Roman authority, he must smoke out corruption and conspiracy that threaten to destroy all of Rome.
  3. The Princess and the Pirates – His two years of aedileship over, Decius is ready for his next adventure. He and Hermes find themselves on a mission to rid the Mediterranean of pirates. They set off with shoddy ships and sailors to the island of Cyprus. The ruler of the island, Silvanus, is murdered in a most peculiar fashion, and Decius, as a guest in his home, has a sacred duty to find and punish the guilty party.
  1. A Point of Law – A man named Fulvius, of whom Decius has never heard, arrives at the preelection proceedings with a small army of hoodlums and begins to shout to the assembled voters that Decius is a thief and worse. When Fulvius’s body is found slashed to death on the steps of the basilica, things don’t look good for Decius.
  2. Under Vesuvius – In Campania, Decius and his wife, Julia, are happy for a change of scenery. But the good times end when, in a town near Vesuvius, a priest’s daughter is murdered. Decius must find her killer and keep the mob off a young boy whom everyone blames but he believes to be innocent. Decius may have acquired more prestige, but he’s also acquired more trouble.
  3. Oracle of the Dead – When the priests of Apollo are all killed, the countryside looks to explode in violence as Greeks, Romans, and native Italians of several conquered nations bring out old enmities. Decius is caught squarely in the middle, desperate to find a way out that will pacify the district and, incidentally, save his own skin.

The Year of Confusion - SPQR Books in Order

  1. The Year of Confusion – Caius Julius Caesar has decided to revise the Roman calendar, which has become out of sync with the seasons. Decius is appointed to oversee this project. Not long after the new calendar project begins, two of the foreigners are murdered. Decius begins his investigations and, as the body count increases, it seems that an Indian fortuneteller popular with patrician Roman ladies is also involved.

SPQR Books in Order (with Short Stories):

  1. The King’s Gambit
  2. The Catiline Conspiracy
  3. The Sacrilege
  4. The Temple of the Muses
  5. “The Statuette of Rhodes” (short story)
  6. Saturnalia
  7. Nobody Loves a Centurion
  8. The Tribune’s Curse
  9. “Mightier Than The Sword” (short story) – Published in The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunnits anthology.
  10. The River God’s Vengeance
  11. “An Academic Question” (short story) – Published in the Past Poisons: An Ellis Peters Memorial Anthology of Historical Crime anthology.
  12. The Princess and the Pirates
  13. A Point of Law
  14. Under Vesuvius
  15. Oracle of the Dead
  16. “Beware the Snake” (short story) – Published in the Down these Strange Streets anthology.
  17. The Year of Confusion
  18. “Venus In Pearls” (short story) – Published in the Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, July/August 2001.
  19. “The Will” (short story) – Published in The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunnits anthology.
  20. “The King Of Sacrifices” (short story) – Published in The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives anthology.

If you like the SPQR reading order, you may also want to see our guide to the Marcus Didius Falco series. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.

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One Comment

  1. Your list is missing the short story “The Etruscan House” from Crime Through Time II ed. Miriam Grace Monfredo & Sharan Newman. I think it comes right before “An Academic Question”.

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