(continued from Murder Imperial)
Helena summons Claudia to their summer residence to investigate both a stolen relic – the sword reputedly used to decapitate St Paul – and an apparently related and particularly gruesome murder. This time, though, the new religion forms the backdrop to the story even more directly, for the Christians, without a common enemy, have now begun to turn on each other.
Constantine and Helena invite representatives of the warring factions of the Church to debate their differences in the royal presence. But can these theologians really be responsible for the theft and the murder, and for the other murders that follow it? Or is an outsider deliberately causing havoc in order to sabotage the discussions, or perhaps with some other quite different motive?
Then the palatial villa itself is attacked.
These are enthralling stories set in a fascinating period of history. Though no one at the time realised it, these dozen or so years before Constantine and Helena quit Rome and moved the whole caboodle to Byzantium and established the new imperial city of Constantinople (the New Rome!), were the final years of the eight centuries of Roman hegemony and civilisation. After that, for a thousand years, the Popes ruled Rome and the West; another kettle of fish altogether.
Imagine Queen Victoria, the Empress of India (yes, that was one of her titles) and her son King Edward upping sticks in the 1880s and making New Delhi the imperial capital. What would the people of Britain – after all, it was the "British" Empire – have thought?