The Roman Mysteries #1: The Thieves of Ostia

by Caroline Lawrence

Paperback, 2010



Local notes

Fic Law





Orion Children's Books (2010), Kindle Edition, 208 pages


In Rome in the year 79 A.D., a group of children from very different backgrounds work together to discover who beheaded a pet dog -- and why.


Original publication date


User reviews

LibraryThing member CaroTheLibrarian
An excellent whodunnit for kids set in Ancient Rome. Flavia Gemina, daughter a sea captain become embroiled in mystery and intrigue when she and her friends discover that someone is killing local dogs.

This is fun adventure for anyone aged 8+, with lots of fascinating snippets about life in Rome,
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alongside the main plot. It's the first in a series of 15 books, and has been televised by the BBC.
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LibraryThing member the_hag
The Thieves of Ostia is the first book in Lawrence's Roman Mysteries Series; a romping, non-stop adventure that takes place in 79 A.D. in Ostia a port city of the Roman Empire. In this story we meet the young mystery solver Flavia Gemina, a Roman sea captain's daughter; her father, Captian Marcus
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Flavius Geminus; Jonathan, her neighbor and secretly Christian; Jonathan's father Mordecai ben Ezra (a physician); Jonathan's sister, Miriam; Nubia, Flavia's slave (purchased for the purpose of emancipation); and Lupus, the beggar boy without a tongue. These are the "main players" and there are, naturally a host of secondary and peripheral characters in this Roman mystery story. At the beginning of the book is a map of Ostia AND a floor plan for Flavia and Jonathan's houses, which are both very helpful to the reader, especially since this book is aimed at young readers (9-11) how may or may not already have learned a bit about how Roman's lived. I found the floor plan to be particularly appealing, a nice visual to go with what I already knew about Roman dwellings, a very nice addition to the story!

As the story begins, Flavia is hot on the trail of one kind of thief...the winged kind...trying to tack down her fathers signet ring that went missing off of his desk. She quickly tracks it down (and a small hoard of treasure) but is attacked by a pack of wild dogs. Jonathan saves her by throwing rocks at the dogs while they run to his house and safety. There his farther, Mordecai treats her ankle and she meets his sister and their dog. She returns home, with Jonathan's help and introduces him to her father. This is, of course, the start of a true and lasting friendship between her and Jonathan (and the two families...despite the fact that her family is Roman and his family is secretly Christian).

Falvia and her father take her treasure to a goldsmith and she gets enough gold to buy a 12 year old Nubian girl that they passed on the way to the goldsmith...Flavia was disturbed that she could be bought as a wife (a girl her own age), so she buys her with plans to emancipate her later on. Shortly thereafter Jonathan's guard dog is murdered and the head is cut off. She and Jonathan set out to use logic and imagination (inspired by her Greek Tutor) to get to the heart of the mystery. What ensues is a fast-paced thriller of a mystery that pulls no punches when it comes to violence which is strange since the author felt the need to minimize the impact and reality of slavery. The violence that can and does happen to them is discussed briefly, but for the most part, slaves are either peripherally mentioned or treated as equals (as is the case with Nubia).

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable mystery/thriller/adventure book for young readers that is heavy on the details of Roman daily life (a big plus), is highly descriptive with likable and believable characters (for the most part) and a mystery that is intriguing yet easy to figure out, a nice combination to be sure. My only "complaints" would be the heavy handed Christian message that comes through, while not so bad that it detracts from the book, it's clear that penning a mystery that demonstrates the daily life of Romans in the first century of the common era was not a the top of the authors list of things to was second, below her desire to pass on a message about the rise of a new monotheistic religion and it's Sheppard God and is, in places, positively dripping with Christian propaganda. This combined with the forced equality between Nubia, Flavia, the beggar boy and Jonathan makes the whole thing slightly cringe worthy...however, despite the fact that I don't appreciate being bonked over the head with Christianity, it's a good book and something I think most kids will get a kick out of. I give it three stars, a light and entertaining read despite its flaws.
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LibraryThing member ReadingPenguin
This is a fun little mystery book for pre-teens. In it, a roman girl called Flavia, a slave-girl called Nubia, a Christian boy called Johnothon, and a mute begger boy called Lupus all join together to find out who killed Johnothon's dog. It is a fun, but not very challanging, mystery. It covers
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Roman life very well, and most of the places in the story are actually there, adding a sence of realism to the story. I have read the book or listened to the audiobook more times then I can count! Not for older people unless they are already hooked with other Roman Mystery books, but good for 9-11 kids who love reading and are willing to read 18 books to find out what happens at the end! (14 have come out, only four to go, which means two years until the last book!)
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LibraryThing member CarpeLanam
I love this book and the series that follows. It has been described as "a Roman Nancy Drew," but it's more poetically written, with more fully realized characters than we usually see in children's literature. The four young detectives develop a camaraderie that all the more endearing because of
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their extremely diverse backgrounds. Although the mystery provides the platform for them to meet and for us to meet them, this book series is much less plot-driven than character-driven. At the end of the book, we want to read more about Flavia Gemina, Jonathan, Nubia and Lupus; and we want to understand the world they live in, which is quite different from our own. Sensitive children may have issues with the realistic depiction of life in ancient Ostia -- decapitated dogs, kidnapped slave girls paraded naked through the town, a boy whose tongue has been cut out, a suicide. The Romans did not live in a G-rated or even a PG-rated world, and the children saw everything the adults did. So with that proviso, I recommend this book for middle school age and up. For younger children, it might be advisable for a trusted adult to discuss it with the child.
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LibraryThing member shsunon
Intelligent, fearless Flavia loves to solve mysteries. Nubia, a slave girl purchased by Flavia, speaks only Greek; Flavia teaches her Latin and the reader learns Latin as well. Jonathan is a Jewish boy whose family tries to keep a low profile so that they can live and worship in peace! An
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observant, mute beggar boy, Lupus, had a talent for art expression. These four friends encounter violence and adventure---imagine being chased by henchmen whose goal is to capture and sell the children as slaves. Imagine coming home and finding that your watchdog has been beheaded. Or hiding in a tree surrounded by feral, angry dogs! Three of the friends learn an important lesson about forgiveness. This novel is the first in a series of Roman mysteries;it is set in Ostia, port of Rome, in A.D.79.
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LibraryThing member Breony
Simple but effective, accepting of all people from all backgrounds, slaves, homeless, people from different religions. Contains religious quotes from the christian faith. An interesting book. Contains some mild horror - dead dogs, man commits suicide. Describes life in Rome AD 79.
LibraryThing member lydia1879
I WAS THINKING about this series the other day and just found it and I'm so pleased!

... I can't remember how many books out of this series I read, but I read a lot of these books. (Some I read back to back.) Either way, I adored this series. I really liked the characters and looking it as an adult
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now my GOODNESS ME this is a fairly diverse cast! Flavia, the main character is a wealthy Roman girl, but there's also a Jewish boy, an African girl and a poor mute boy called Lupus.

I hadn't realised that - it's really cool to come back to a book series I read when I was younger and realise that it's so inclusive. Or, more inclusive than most?

I loved the plot of these books but more than that I liked all of the character development, the arcs of the characters and how they transformed over a series of books. Some of the books feature very well-known historical characters, Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger and so on - so it was cool to learn little tidbits of ancient history while following this motley crew of children on a crazy mystery. (Why were they allowed to get away with so much? They were like, ten!)

ANYWAY. Tiny wee me would've given this book 4.5 stars. So 4.5 it is!
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LibraryThing member LibraryCin
It’s ancient Rome and the dog belonging to one of Flavia’s neighbours has been killed and beheaded. Flavia and her friends plan to find out who did it.

This is a mix of children’s lit, historical fiction, and mystery. I listened to the audio, and overall it was ok. I did lose focus (as I seem
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to with audios more often lately) a few times, but the story was ok. There was a short author’s/historical note at the end, though being a kids’ book, it didn’t go into detail. Even with only an “ok” rating from me, it might still be a fun series to continue.
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LibraryThing member HeatherLINC
Written for older children, "The Thieves of Ostia" was a great read for those who enjoy history and adventure. The author had clearly done her research as the novel was filled with interesting information about daily life in Ancient Rome. The four young protagonists - Flavian, Jonathan, Nubia and
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Lupus - were all relatable and I liked how diverse they were. Although the writing and mystery were simplistic, considering the target audience, I think "The Thieves of Ostia" would appeal to a range of readers.
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LibraryThing member funstm
The first book in the Roman Mysteries - a historical middle grade mystery series set in Rome AD79 - The Thieves of Ostia introduces four children - Flavia, Nubia, Lupus and Jonathan - who team up and find adventure and intrigue wherever they go.

I didn't hate this, but I can't say I really loved it
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either. It's an easy enough read. Flavia was a bit annoying. She was very pushy. But she could be kind. I mean, she plans to buy a scroll for her birthday but when she sees a girl her own age (Nubia) being sold as a slave, she decides to buy her. The others were alright though. The mystery made sense for all it gave me the creeps Violence against animals sucks. . Will likely read more of the series. 2 stars.
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½ (85 ratings; 3.8)
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