Rome in Africa

Leave a comment on today’s Mutterings for a chance at winning a copy of the Garment of Shadows ARC.

Among other oddities of this extraordinary country, Morocco was part of the Roman empire.  As Hadrian’s Wall, between England and Scotland, marked the northern point of Rome’s West, the city of Volubilis occupied its south-western fringes.

Volubilis lies about forty miles from Fez, at the foot of the hills containing the shrine of Moulay Idriss.  You can see both in this 1940s documentary, not very different from what Sherlock Holmes saw in late 1924:

The road turned north, bringing into view an unlikely piece of architecture, away in the distance.

“Is that the ancient city of the Romans?” he asked the man.

The man followed Holmes’ eyes to what could only be a triumphal arch and began a detailed story about the time his wife had got it into her head that what their farmyard needed was a stone entranceway and how much time he’d had to spend hauling blocks out of the place until she was satisfied.

Clearly, not a student of archaeology.

To read more from Garment of Shadows, go here.

To order a copy—hardback, audio, e-book, or signed—go here.


  1. Victoria on July 19, 2012 at 6:10 am

    “The name of Volubilis is known both from ancient texts and from the abundant epigraphic material from the site itself Its origin is unknown but may be a Latinized version of the Berber name for the oleander, oualili, which grows in profusion on the banks of the wadi Khoumane that runs round part of the site.”


  2. Teresa on July 19, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Nobody’s ever sweating in those desert documentaries. and I know it’s bloody hot there.

  3. Tarah Walsh on July 19, 2012 at 6:48 am

    haha…Love the excerpt–can’t wait to read it in full!

  4. Linda on July 19, 2012 at 6:59 am

    So anxious for this book and more details about the atmosphere and adventures Russell and Holmes will face.

  5. Seth Huckstead on July 19, 2012 at 7:06 am

    Love the historical details in your books.

  6. Elizabeth Copley on July 19, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I did not realize the Roman Empire went so far south.

  7. Amanda B on July 19, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I love this excerpt!

  8. kt on July 19, 2012 at 7:40 am

    oh Holmes. I love him.

  9. Bonnie R. on July 19, 2012 at 7:44 am

    This excerpt is definitely intriguing! I can’t wait for more Mary Russell. 🙂

  10. Lydia on July 19, 2012 at 7:46 am

    It’s easy to imagine people picking up culture from other countries now, but it was amazing how much of it happened back when computers and mass communication on an international level were the stuff of fiction!

  11. Jessica B. on July 19, 2012 at 7:47 am

    As a historian, I’m twitching in sympathy with Holmes. That’s as bad as finding church carvings in the mortarless sheep fences in Ireland!

  12. KateM on July 19, 2012 at 7:48 am

    The more you tell us about the new story, the more anxious I become to see Holmes and Russell in such a setting. Sweet, sweet torture…

  13. mamajoan on July 19, 2012 at 7:49 am

    I too always wonder why people don’t seem to sweat in these things. Maybe they simply adapt to their environment.

    I love the name Volubilis — it puts me in mind of the word voluble, which seems apt for the farmer in the excerpt. 🙂

  14. Sherrie Saint on July 19, 2012 at 7:49 am

    waiting for a new Laurie book is like waiting on Christmas

  15. caroline gaudy on July 19, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Holmes in Morocco is just about perfect.

  16. Johanna on July 19, 2012 at 7:53 am

    I love your books, but especially your Mary Russell/ Sherlock Holmes series. I reread them every year. I keep my copies in my classroom library for students to read and I’ve gotten some kids hooked! How could they not be? 🙂

  17. Staci Greunke on July 19, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Can’t wait for the new book! Just beginning with a love of your Sherlock and Mary stories. On a side note, after reading the book with the aftermath for Mary from the earthquake in 1906, I read 3 more books that mentioned the event, an event I had forgotten from my history lessons. Now it is firmly in my brain. LOL

  18. Dixie Moberg on July 19, 2012 at 7:57 am

    To be honest, I have nothing of any intellectual significance to contribute to this comment section, but I really would like to win an ARC 🙂

  19. Ashley Carlson on July 19, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Very excited to read another Russell story, and particularly looking forward to immersing myself in another one of Ms. King’s beautifully researched and written worlds!

  20. Debs on July 19, 2012 at 7:59 am

    I can’t wait to read Garment of Shadows!

  21. Sondra on July 19, 2012 at 8:01 am

    I also didn’t realize just how extensive the Roman Empire was. Details like that really make the books feel real. One of my favorites is “Oh, Jerusalem” because of those historical details and the general atmosphere of the book. It’s such an interesting time period.

  22. Tracy S. on July 19, 2012 at 8:05 am

    My daughter spent one very hot summer studying Arabic in Morocco. She wanted to stay there forever! I love it when Russell and Holmes travel.

  23. Vero A. on July 19, 2012 at 8:09 am

    WANT a copy!!!

  24. Dy on July 19, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Thank you so much for the link to the UNESCO site. Amazing pictures and the mosaics are beautiful. Unlike the farmer, I am an archeology buff 🙂

  25. Lee on July 19, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Hi, I want to know that Pirate King, which I found weak, was an aberration! Love the earlier books!

  26. Joel Williams on July 19, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Nice imagery – wish I had put more effort into that year of French in High School & continued with it instead of switching to Spanish

  27. Terry on July 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    London must seem pretty boring (architecturally) for Holmes and Russell when they return home…

  28. Peggy Mitchell on July 19, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Garment of Shadows – beautiful title

  29. Laura Lee on July 19, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Lovely as they are…and they are very, very lovely…these snippets are feeling like torture. I can’t wait to read the whole book!

  30. Betsy Chamberlin on July 19, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Volubilis, eh? In that position, they must often have tried – and probably failed – to talk their way out of trouble.

  31. Nancy Reynolds on July 19, 2012 at 8:46 am

    What fun all of these daily lead-ins (lead-ups?) to the new book. I am loving every moment of it. Thank you. Thank you. I must add, it is also pure torture waiting for the new book – but the wait is made oh-so-fun with these daily treats.

  32. Judy Westmoreland on July 19, 2012 at 8:52 am

    Since i not a student of history, I did not know that Morocco was part of the Roman Empire. Very interesting.

  33. Kim on July 19, 2012 at 9:11 am

    If only I could meet Mary and Sherlock!

  34. Heather Wright on July 19, 2012 at 9:16 am

    I’m really enjoying the photos and the daily updates!

  35. Ashley on July 19, 2012 at 9:18 am

    The photos of these ruins are incredible. I would love to make a trip to Morocco, and I have a feeling this book is going to only feed that desire.

  36. Kathy Acosta on July 19, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Ditto what Heather Wright said. I’m enjoying the photos so much — they really help with the mental imagery when I’m reading the book, for which I can’t WAIT!!!!

  37. Elly on July 19, 2012 at 9:21 am

    It’s a pleasure and a torture to be able to have a peek inside the world you’re creating. Mary Russell is probably my favourite heroine and it’s great to see her in so many different situations and circumstances!

  38. K.B. on July 19, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Would love to win an ARC!

  39. Laurie M. on July 19, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I love today’s photos (complete with bird’s nest) and the background information. The excerpt from Garment of Shadows is oh so enticing!

  40. Katy Holder on July 19, 2012 at 9:33 am

    I’m so excited about the new book!

  41. Samantha on July 19, 2012 at 9:47 am

    I was so surprised when I found this books. They were so wonderful that I read all of them (there were ten at the time) in one month. This books also helped me get my degree in English, turns out they are perfect for a thesis paper. I can’t wait for the new one.

  42. Linda on July 19, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Pictures are fabulous! LOVE the bird and nest!!

  43. Lani on July 19, 2012 at 9:54 am

    If I can’t get to all these places in real life, I suppose the next best is to read about them in your books. 🙂 Thanks!

  44. Mandolin on July 19, 2012 at 9:59 am

    How fascinating. Thank you for providing so much detailed information. It makes the books come alive.

  45. Artemisia on July 19, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Now I understand why you wrote The Pirate King! You needed it as a bridge to get Russell to Morocco! * People forget how much influence France had in North Africa as both a colonial and a modern power. I have a lovely pair of antique earrings from Paris in the ’20s and the pattern is Moroccan. The back of the screw is a rose.

  46. Ellen Eckhouse on July 19, 2012 at 10:07 am

    It is always wonderful to look forward to a new Mary Russell book, can’t wait!

  47. Tiffany on July 19, 2012 at 10:11 am

    wow….I think my next vacation might have to be in Morocco….with GoS! 🙂

  48. Caryn on July 19, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Thank you for this.

  49. Marie K on July 19, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Roman ruins are my favorite!

  50. Lanie T. H. on July 19, 2012 at 10:36 am

    It’s so difficult to wait for the book to come out–and to be in a position from which I can retrace Russell’ journeys in person.

  51. Sandy K on July 19, 2012 at 10:39 am

    One of the wonderful things about the Middle East is the Roman ruins that seem to pop up no matter where one roams. They were truly the master builders!

  52. Allison T on July 19, 2012 at 11:00 am

    I never thought about the Romans making it that far west in Africa, though if they made it to England I guess it was never out of the realm of possibility.

    In Alexandria (al-Iskandria), Egypt, they still have the ruins of ampitheatres and bath houses, and about 2 blocks up from the train station is a really well preserved one with a very impressive collection of statuary that they have brought up from the water.

  53. Gillian Barr on July 19, 2012 at 11:11 am

    2 friends of mine were just in Morocco visiting their daughter who is there on an exchange program. I can introduce them all to Russell and share the ARC if I win it.

  54. Erica Ruth on July 19, 2012 at 11:12 am

    It makes me shudder to think how often that has happened over the course of history….

  55. Carol M on July 19, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I enjoyed the excerpt. Thank you!

  56. Melissa Adkins on July 19, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Living in America, seeing and reading about the sheer weight of ancient history in other countries is mind-boggling. Seeing places that have been inhabited for centuries or even millenia is such a humbling reminder of the ephemeral quality of a human lifespan; I suppose this should be morbid but I think of it more as “carpe diem”!

  57. Libby Dodd on July 19, 2012 at 11:51 am

    May I have some more, please?

  58. susan Steinhaus on July 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I love the homework for the new book. I will “bee” prepared when it comes out!

  59. Robbin Stull on July 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    On a lesser scale, visiting a home for sale with beautiful woodwork including original pocket doors and being told of the previous visitor, who is an all cash buyer, saying how lovely the rooms would look if the walls were knocked out and the woodwork painted white…

  60. TheMadLibrarian on July 19, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I am amused by the Roman column with the stork? nest on top!

  61. Kelley on July 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    A column with a stork’s nest, ha! Just goes to show nature will take back what is hers. And the sunset behind the arches? Breath taking!

  62. Will on July 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Hahaha! the excerpt was funny! although I would like to go to this place and see the ruins. I don’t get to travel much and these pictures make me want to take a yearlong summer vacation traveling among the ruins.

  63. Madonna Smith on July 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    What lovely pictures. And I think these are just as Mary Russell would have seen them.

  64. P. Brennan on July 19, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Love the pictures, can’t wait for the new book, pictures are setting the scene for it!

  65. Meredith Taylor on July 19, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Those images from the forties! astonishing.//Meredith

  66. Kim on July 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Can’t wait for Garment of Shadows!

  67. Michael on July 19, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Love the pictures… now I need to read the book!

  68. Katherine on July 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Haha this snippet made me laugh 🙂

  69. jtb1951 on July 19, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I am always fascinated by the geographic range of significant Roman ruins!

  70. Jill Altman on July 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    As a former archaeologist it has always fascinated me to see what the ancients did with building materials that were ancient even in their time. Recycling at its best.

  71. Elise on July 19, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Oh my goodness! I am bursting with excitement!

  72. Rachel Ratliff on July 19, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Seeing the world through the eyes of Russell and Holmes is a great way to travel. : )

  73. Katie on July 19, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    I loved the excerpt and the photos, especially the nest atop the column. Thank you for sharing so generously.

  74. Susan Pence on July 20, 2012 at 6:55 am

    Morocco is one of my favorite places in the world! Where else could you take an overnight trek into the Sahara on camels, take in the sights/smells/sounds/tastes of a souq, enjoy a very proper Moroccan tea with a guitar-playing Kenny Rodgers imitator, marvel at the intricate calligraphy and architecture one moment and learn how to use a primitive squat toilet the next, stay up all night discussing western and eastern lifestyles around a fireplace after hiking through a magnificent gorge, choose to eat tajine or taco bell, stay in a traditional Bedouin tent or a meticulously run hotel, learn how to wrap an indigo blue turban from our Bedouin hosts and how to shop in a traditional Moroccan pharmacy in Marrakech with an up-to-date young woman. It is a place that lives in my dreams and memories! Some day, I will go back. As for now, I am anticipating my next journey with Russell and Holmes with great relish!!

  75. Rachel Adrianna on July 20, 2012 at 7:16 am

    i’m so glad you share your intensive research with us! thank you!

  76. Sarah R. on July 20, 2012 at 7:45 am

    The pictures are beautiful! I’ve always longed to see Roman ruins, they built to last-even against time itself.

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