Denise O’Hagan

OLD A Roman Death by Joan O’Hagan

Historical thriller set in Ancient Rome

Second revised edition

It is 45 BC, and Julius Caesar is at the height of his power. Quintus Fufidius agrees against his wife’s instincts to the marriage of their daughter to the handsome young Lucius Scaurus. It is an alliance which could heal old feuds and create a new dynasty. But before the wedding takes place one of the principals is murdered.

Suspects are few, but Roman society is shocked when Quintus’ wife is accused, not only of murder, but also of incest. The trial of Helvia, in which she is defended by Cicero, is a courtroom battle on the grand scale and accompanied by the political shenanigans which result in Caesar’s assassination.

Joan O’Hagan has written a brilliantly evocative novel and a unique whodunit, subtly combining the elements of a contemporary mystery with the atmosphere of Ancient Rome.

Foreword by Steven Saylor.

Will appeal to devotees of crime and detective fiction, historical fiction, and those interested in the life and customs of Ancient Rome.

About the author

Joan O’Hagan was a published crime writer (Incline & Fall, Death and a Madonna, Against the Grain, Jerome & His Women). Thanks to meticulous research, a wicked imagination and over thirty years of living in Rome, she brings to life daily customs both in the home and in the street and courtroom in Ancient Rome at the time of Caesar’s assassination.

A Roman Death available now:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Booktopia, Angus & Robertson, The Nile, Fishpond


(O’Hagan’s) knowledge of the period, the place, the politics, the social milieu and sexual mores of Caesar’s Rome is impeccable. Rather than intruding on the plot, the myriad details blend seamlessly into the story and serve to drive it forward.’
Steven Saylor

‘An absorbing story, with fully drawn characters, a fascinating place and period, all given vibrant life in the author’s best work so far.’
Kirkus Review

‘An original setting, carefully researched and vividly portrayed.
The Times Literary Supplement

‘Religious beliefs and superstition in the ancient world play a key part in Joan O’Hagan’s novel about mayhem in Rome … The identity of the killer, in this excellent classical puzzle that is also a classic whodunit, is revealed in a splendidly contrived shock ending.’
Gerald Kaufman, The Listener

‘Who put the poison in Lucius’s wine, what truth in the scabrous accusations? Cicero for the defence; an unusual treat, don’t miss it.’
Christopher Wordsworth, The Observer

‘The contexts are all smartly timed … beware of wicked terminal twists.’
Stephen Walsh, The Oxford Times

‘O’Hagan’s skill as a writer is in bringing the Roman ruins and statues to life. And in particular, the Roman women!’
Robert Fairhead, NSW Writers’ Centre

‘In this novel, excellent as a mystery and as a reconstruction of the life of upper-class Rome in 45–44 BC, O’Hagan tells a story of murder, magic, love, greed and intrigue, the plot of which could have come right out of an oration of Cicero.’
Fred Mench, Fictional Rome: Authors & Reviews

‘If you are upset by discussions of poisoning by aconite, or by descriptions of multiple anal rape, or by sympathetic portrayals of incest, this is probably not a book for your reading list. I, on the other hand, greatly enjoyed it …
Richard Blake, historical novelist

‘(O’Hagan) is obviously that rare beast, a Latinist who is perfectly at home with the story’s first century BC background … the writing is tight, spare and controlled and the language carefully chosen … her dramatis personae are real people, masters and controllers of their own fate, not puppets manipulated by the author to act her story out …’
David Wishart, author of the Corvinus historical detective series