Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Trouble With Virgins, by Thomas K. Carpenter.

"The Trouble With Virgins," by Thomas K. Carpenter, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, February 2015.

Interesting title. 

This first story by the author of several historical novels is set in first century A.D. Alexandria. Magistrate Ovid, an unambitious son of Roman aristocrats, has the job of administering justice in a section of the city.  Alas, he finds himself between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

A vestal virgin informs him that a crime has been committed: a body has been burned in the city proper.  The culprit, a young man, cheerfully admits to the crime.  But his father, a senator, demands that Ovid find him innocent.  Either the virgin or the senator can destroy Ovid's career.  How can he satisfy both?

The answer requires a knowledge of Roman law and a willingness to stretch the truth.  Very clever story.

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