Saturday, 30 January 2016

Caesar's Ghost by Reb MacRath, reviewed by Bill Kirton

With all Reb MacRath books, the feeling is always that the author really enjoys writing them. The prose is sharp, focused, the characters’ dialogue is in the great American tradition of incisive exchanges, brisk one-liners and challenging postures, and the ultimate message is usually positive. That approach is maintained here in Caesar’s Ghost, even though the central character hails from a culture which, superficially, may seem to be as far from that of modern America as is possible. But Caesar’s perceptions of how we live our lives and the parallels he draws with what went on in ancient Rome are enlightening and, most of all, very witty.

I’m resisting the temptation to outline the premiss or summarise the plot because some of its twists depend on surprises best left for readers to experience for themselves. MacRath’s tongue-in-cheek invention of the ‘Mhistory’ genre hints at what to expect. Basically, it’s a thriller/mystery with a cast of well-defined and very varied characters, some fantastical yet totally persuasive transitions and a highly satisfying denouement. It’s funny, fast and, with the lightest of touches from the author, it shows a deceptive ease in its familiarity with the historical source material.

It’s not a long novel. In fact I was enjoying it so much, I read it in two sittings. If you don’t yet know MacRath’s work, this is a good place to start.