Officer Cassius Corbulo is a Secret Agent for Imperial Rome. Yes! I didn’t know this job existed within the structure of the Roman Army! He is sent to the Greek Island of Rhodes by Chief Pulcher, Head of the Imperial Security Service to pick up some documents from Memor, his deputy. He arrives on the island to find the Deputy has been brutally murdered, his head cut off and stolen by the killer. He reluctantly accepts to pursue and find the killer and sets out on a dangerous journey that will take him through storms to the island of Crete and then on to north coast of Africa.
Nick Brown’s tale of Officer Cassius Corbulo, his slave Simo and bodyguard Indavara provided me with so much knowledge and information on the era that I had known very little about. The corruption that spread like wildfire within the Roman Army, the local tribes that were fighting to get their land back at any cost and the life-threatening voyages that were made.
The Far Shore was not only informative but captivating. There were two particularly harrowing and graphic scenes that I was absolutely gripped by. Brown sets the scenes with such detail that as a reader you are fully immersed. The first is the storm which occurs on the journey to Crete. The depiction of the churning sea, relentless rain and crashing waves has you rooting for all on board, hoping that they all survive. The second scene is the mass killing at the quarry, it is told as if you are eyewitnesses with Officer Corbulo and the men of the Second Legion. We are filled with the shock that they are; the same lack of comprehension and the overwhelming feeling of fear for the future as it ends.
The relationship between Cassius and his men, Simo and Indavara is very touching. The three men are very close yet because of the social hierarchy they all know where their place is. We know very little of the pasts of Simo and Indavara and the book leaves you wanting to know much more. Brotherhood is a recurring theme as a large proportion of the novel is spent aboard a ship. The sailors all depend on each other and can only survive when they work as a team. This is also the case with Cassius, Simo and Indavara. If, one of them fails in their duty, the other two will fragment and fall apart.
I must confess that when I received my latest novel from Secret Book Club, I was a little worried. My knowledge of Ancient Rome is pretty limited and has probably only been shaped by a couple of visits to the Museum of London. I think it is because of this that I found the book a little difficult to begin with but Brown provides the reader with everything they need; no prior knowledge is needed on the period. This is the third novel in the ‘Agent of Rome’ series but works brilliantly on its own. The Far Shore contains brilliant characters and is an exhilarating and thrilling novel. I would be very excited to see what Cassius Corbulo gets up to on his next adventure.