Alan Scribner is American author of mystery books popularly known for his Judge Marcus Flavius Severus Mystery series. A graduate of Yale Law School and the University of Pennsylvania, he worked as an Assistant District Attorney and as a criminal defense attorney and as an independent scholar of Ancient Rome. He’s retired from corporate jobs and lives in New Hampshire.

Mars the Avengers

Mars the Avengers is the first book in Judge Marcus Flavius Severus Mystery series. It’s a historical mystery series set in the year 158CE in the reigns of Antonius Pius, a period historians often refers to the height of Roman Empire. It’s also the daily life in Rome and a stopover into the Roman way of life, police, criminal law and courts.

The series debut novel introduces us to a man by the name Marcus Severus, one of the judges in the Prefect of the City of Rome court. He’s investigating the mysterious disappearance of the senator’s wife as well as the discovery of a body of a man disposed into the steps of the Temple of Mars the Avenger. As the investigations are underway, the murder and disappearance cases become connected and trace their roots to an affair seventeen years earlier in the roman orient.

The investigations lead the main character and his court and the cops through the city and into the society of the ancient Rome, into the wealthy villas, slave markets, circus Maximus and the tenement apartment houses. All rescripts, laws, and legal procedures depicted in this story are all from Roman law sources.

Alan Scribner has woven an exciting mystery novel that draws you in right from the first page, and it’s a pleasant read. He has created a world that the reader can see, feel, hear, and taste. The story is modeled in Sherlock Holmes style in such a way that the final climactic scene involves solving the murder cases through the acumen of the main character. If you enjoyed Sherlock Holmes books or films based on the novels, you will find Mars the Avengers an enjoyable read. Like Sherlock, Marcus sees something other people don’t, and that experience for the readers is an intellectual one. The traditional method of who-done-it mystery is widely used here.

From the historical details in this book, it’s evident that Scribner did extensive research into the history of ancient Rome. There are tons of different Latin terms in the story which are detailed explained, for various issues and jobs. The setting of the story is the City of Rome, which is accurate even after two thousand years. In addition, the characters are also well crafted, and they depict the people who lived in the era. There are details about the abuse of slaves by their owners.

Even though Mars the Avenger is primarily a mystery novel, it gives us useful background information and lots of speculation on Roman philosophy and law during the reign of the so-called “Good Emperors.” As it happens in many other stories in the “Roman genres,” slaves are always considered as suspects in murder cases which could lead them to a death sentence for every slave in the household. The story isn’t just built around the detection of the protagonist, but the third person narration shows the readers the actions of Severus and his associates.

The Cyclops Case

In the second book in the series, Severus returns three years later after the events in the bestselling and acclaimed series debut novel, Mars the Avenger. The emperor Marcus Aurelius has been an empire for a few months, and Persians have attacked the Roman Empire.

Marcus Severus, a judge in the court of the Urban Prefect, is on vacation with his family at the Bay of Naples. This is the ancient Roman seacoast, the Crate and is famously known for combining high culture and excessive pleasure-seeking with license and corruption. One night on the beach, the uncanny General Cyclops is stabbed through the eye and Severus is assigned by the relevant authorities to investigate the case. The Cyclop’s murder case sparks a series of a connected web of counterfeiting, robbery ranging 30 years in the past to the present. The case also puts Severus in a conspiracy theory involving the Persian and Roman Empire secret services and leads to a series of murders which are all the resemblance of the scene out of Homer’s Odyssey.

Surprisingly solving the homicide leads to more murders to solve. Just like in the first book in the series, The Cyclops Case is both a mystery novel and also a daily life dairy of the ancient Rome, giving the reader a glimpse into the world of roman courts way of life, criminal law and police. The investigations take Severus and his team into the society of Romans at their leisure. The scenes in the story are set among other places in, gambling halls, summer villas, brothels, tenement apartment, secret services headquarters, and bookstores. Some scenes are set in the courts, and the details of the criminal laws are accurate as to the regard to the Roman times.

Marcus Aurelius Betrayed

In the third book in the series, Severus is appointed to be the Emperor’s special judge to investigate an assassination attempt on the Prefect of Egypt. The poison had been added into the Prefect’s drink, but the poison was drunk by a guest of honor seated next to the Prefect.

With the aid of his wife and others, Judge Severus tracks down all the possible clues and the witnesses involved in efforts to solve the murder plot. On their investigative journey, they are faced with theft of rare, unique books, judicial murder, and the production of fake antiquities. Finally, through a series of twists and turns, the case is ultimately referred to the Emperor in Rome, and the investigations proceed in the capital of Rome.

Overall, from the reviews above, it’s evident that Marcus Flavius Severus Mystery series books are written by a person with obvious love and respect for the Roman times and has a great deal of academic knowledge to back up his claims. The characters are beautifully crafted and perfectly fit into the landscape.

Books in order of publication:

. Judge Marcus Flavius Severus Mystery Books

Mars the Avenger(2012) 
The Cyclops Case(2013) 
Marcus Aurelius Betrayed(2014) 
The Return of Spartacus(2016) 
Mission to Athens(2017) 
Across the River Styx(2018)