Title: The Ides of April
Author: Mary Ray
Major Themes: Ancient Rome, Murder Mystery
Synopsis: When his master is found dead in his bed one morning, the slave Hylas must get help to find the murderer before all the slaves, including Hylas’s mother, are executed for the murder.
I like The Ides of April! As a mystery story it is very well-written; as a picture of Rome in the time of Nero it is exceptional. I just finished reading it aloud to my children a few days ago. The younger ones didn’t understand everything, but the older ones appreciated it.
The main character is Hylas, a slave who is secretary to a senator. Hylas saves the life of his master’s new son-in-law Camillus on their way to the senator’s house. The next morning, when the senator is found murdered in his bed and all the slaves are taken to prison, Hylas, who was able to hide and escape arrest, sends a message to Camillus asking him to help find the real murderer so that all the slaves won’t be killed. They uncover a plot of such magnitude that Camillus doesn’t know which way to turn. Will he be able to find the murderer without getting himself in trouble, before it’s too late for the slaves?
The Ides of April is somewhat of a prequel to Beyond the Desert Gate; Hylas figures in both stories. They stand alone, however; you don’t have to read one to understand the other. I highly recommend both books to supplement any study of the Roman Empire. My children have gotten somewhat tired of studying the Romans; we’ve been reading about that time period for nearly a year. Someone was saying it’s time to move on and I said, “We have The Ides of April to read yet.” She said, “Oh, that one doesn’t count—it’s not history, it’s a story!” It does tell history, though, as far as giving the flavor of the times.
WARNING: In chapter 4, pages 33 and 34, and chapter 5 page 39 the characters speak “in the name of Zeus”
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults