The Curse-Maker (Roman Noir Mystery #2) by Kelli Stanley.*
Arcturus returns home to find his wife Gwyna depressed. His employer, Agricola the governor of Britannia suggests they go to Aquae Sulis (Bath) for a vacation. But before they even arrive at their villa, they find a corpse in the Sacred Spring. The local administration ask him to investigate the murder while he is there.
Although Arcturus is reluctant at first, Gwyna expresses an interest in helping him, so he agrees.
The victim is Rufus Bibax, a curse-maker, who inscribes curses on stone tablets for as a profession. One of his own curses is found tucked into the corpse's mouth. The curse-maker's craft is well-researched and -described, as are the details of life in Roman Britain.
The narrative is written from Arcturus' point of view, and Stanley does it skilfully. The operative word here is "noir" and though at first it's a little disconcerting to hear a Roman physician expressing himself in the manner of Sam Spade, that doesn't last long.
An intriguing and absorbing story, this will certainly appear on 2011 Best lists!
*Sincere thanks to the author for the Advance Review Copy!