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Mystery of the Roman Ransom

by Henry Winterfeld
217 pages, Mystery
Reviewed by Jeanne

A fun sequel to 'Detectives in Togas.'


In this sequel to Winterfeld's Detectives in Togas, the boys of the Xanthos School try to celebrate their teacher's fiftieth birthday by presenting him with a slave of his very own to help him in the upkeep of the school (and to prevent another burglary). Xantippus, however, is less than enthused with such a gift, and demands that the boys take Udo, the mute slave, back where they bought him from.

Unfortunately, the slave dealer is gone. Fled, to be precise, from a one-eyed gladiator who is out to get Udo. Saddled with a wanted slave, the boys decide to turn him over to the police...until Udo opens his mouth and begs them not to. He explains to them as much as he knows: that his master sent him on this trip to Rome carrying a now-lost message that, unbeknownst to him, ordered the murder of a senator.

And Mucius, Julius, Antonius, Caius, Publius, Flavius, and Rufus are all sons of famous senators.


Assassination plays a part in the story, but the boys are trying to stop it from taking place. The boys hide Udo from the police, knowing that he would be arrested for not returning to his master. Right and wrong are clear, and the schoolboys try to do the right thing.

In addition to these points, though slavery was an accepted practice at this point in history, most of the boys agree that it is right to treat slaves humanely.

Spiritual Content

There are a few references to the Roman religion, their gods, and temples. Ghosts and witches are mentioned in one chapter.


Caius mentions how he would like to hit Xantippus over the head, which Julius informs him is not allowed. Udo is attacked by the one-eyed gladiator, who attempts to kidnap him. Murder, also is a central theme in the story. At one point several characters visit a graveyard in order to spy on two bad characters, and one thinks he sees a ghost; recognizing it to be a grave robber, one of the boys throws a large stick at him to frighten him off. A character is locked in the catacombs beneath the amphitheater, and the gladiators there try to feed another of the boys to a lion.

Drug and Alcohol Content

One of the boys runs into a group of drunk gladiators, who are still drinking wine at the time.

Sexual Content

Caius mentions how a slave kissed his sister's hand in gratefulness, and how his father was greatly displeased.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Several characters swear by the gods. The boys occasionally insult one another with words like "idiot" and "dumbbell," and are usually rebuked by Mucius.


Another fun mystery with the schoolboys of "Detectives in Togas," this time involving lions and slaves. The history that Winterfeld uses (especially surrounding the loss of three legions in the Battle of Teutoberg Forest) is quite interesting, and it was nice to see some of the other boys play a larger role in the story. It was a good book either for an introduction to ancient Roman history, or merely as a mystery for younger readers.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 4
Written for Age: 11-12

Review Rating:

Average rating: 5 stars
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