Lustrum, By Robert Harris

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The Independent Culture

With expense scandals and property envy among Rome's ruling classes, the second volume in Robert Harris's Cicero trilogy of novels has a nicely contemporary ring. Its's 63BC and the silver-tongued consul finds himself centre stage, as Rome starts to make the transition from Republic to Empire – not a good place to be with such powerful personalities as Caesar, Pompey, Crassus, Cato and Catalina waiting in the wings.

Lustrum - named after the Latin for a period of five years – is packed with the kind of gutsy toga drama you might expect from a classical blockbuster, while also delivering the period's complex history. Tiro, Cicero's trusty secretary, once again guides us through senate conspiracies and patrician debaucheries.