Book review: The Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence

Reading my way through the 18 books in Caroline Lawrence’s children’s series The Roman Mysteries was never boring.  It was an exciting and educational journey.  The books are set in the years AD 80-81 when Rome was considered the centre of the civilised world and people such as Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Cleopatra were already legendary figures from the distant past.


Each of the Roman mysteries is a separate adventure involving Flavia Gemina, a kind hearted but sometimes bossy girl who loves to solve mysteries.   Flavia and her three friends: Jewish neighbour Jonathon, Sudanese slave girl Nubia, and mute beggar boy Lupus, live in the Roman post of Ostia.  However, in the course of their adventures the children travel to many exotic locations.  The series begins with The Thieves of Ostia but it is possible to read the novels out of sequence.
You will discover so much about everyday Roman life and society, from the different classes of citizen and cultures living in Italia, family life, food, housing and décor, mode of dress, literature, medicine, methods of transport, government, religion and social customs. 

Parents should be aware that although the Roman Mysteries are written for children, they feature adult themes that are not suitable for younger readers.  The plots of the novels focus on concepts such as slavery, theft, murder, assassination, and allude to crucifixion and adultery.  For example, The Gladiators from Capua takes place during the 100 days of games commissioned by the Emperor Titus, so you are going to read about violent spectacles including combat between gladiators and wild animals.

Man from Pomegranate StreetDespite all this, Caroline Lawrence’s stories are very funny and her characters endearing! 

The stories inspire us to think about the difference between right and wrong (which is not always clear in the adult world) and how we should treat others, especially people from different cultures.

You can read all of the books in the Roman Mysteries through the One Card network.  Some of Lawrence’s books have also been adapted into two television series which are available on DVD.  Search the Library’s online catalogue or enquire next time you visit the Library.