For the life of me, I cannot understand or find the link between the title of this book and its plot. According to the author, the Venus throw is a certain results from the roll of the die (or the equivalent of dice in ancient Rome). This appears in only one scene while Gordianus is sitting in a bar and is interrupted by someone playing a game at a nearby table shouts “The Venus Throw!”
Saylor’s fourth book in his Gordianus the Finder series centers around the murder of Dio, an Egyptian ambassador from Alexandria on a diplomatic mission to Rome. Dio turns up unexpectedly at Gordianus’ door, dressed as a woman. He remembers tutoring a young Gordianus many years before when the Finder was traveling the world and gaining wisdom. It is also when and where Gordianus met and bought the beautiful slave Bethesda.
Dio begs Gordianus for help, since he is convinced people want him dead, his mission to Rome to fail. He started out from Alexandria with a retinue of fifteen diplomats and after several assassination attempts, he is the only one left.
Gordianus feels he must refuse his old mentor, lest he bring the violence to his own home and family. Which has a ring of irony in the end.
No surprise to the reader, Dio is murdered and Gordianus is compelled to find out who killed him. Then he is contacted by Clodia, a wealthy, beautiful, and amoral widow. She is convinced the handsome Marcus Caelius (known by Gordanius) is the murderer and is will to pay anything for him to prove Caelius is guilty. But is Clodia only out for revenge as a woman scorned? With her, nothing is as it seems and Gordianus doubts she is out for justice.
As with previous novels, Saylor’s story can get bogged down as he tends to enter entire speeches from history records but this time he limits it to only one. I like the details Saylor gives of life in ancient Rome, its culture, geography, attitude, etc. The Venus Throw did not drag with as many speeches as before and Saylor does provide a surprise ending.
3 ½ Jupiter’s lightning bolts.