Monday, September 20, 2010

Nemesis: A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery by Lindsey Davis - Review

I love fiction set in ancient Rome and when it is a mystery, my favorite genre, so much the better. The Marcus Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis is one of my favorites of the type. I've read them all and now I've read this latest one.

I have to say it was not my favorite of the lot, but it was very good, very entertaining and kept me guessing, although I did have a glimmer of the solution about two-thirds of the way through.

The book starts with a double tragedy. Falco loses two family members in one day and the losses change his life forever. While he is working through his bereavement, he is presented with the mystery of the disappearance of a couple who had been supplying his antique dealer/auctioneer father with statuary. A shipment was delivered but when payment was attempted the suppliers could not be found. Soon Falco is on the trail of the disappeared pair and that leads him into confrontation with a notorious and violent family. A family which may very well be involved in mass murder.

Falco's vigiles friend, Petronius, becomes involved when a murdered and desecrated body is found. The body turns out to be the man who was the statuary supplier, but as Petronius and Falco investigate this turn of events, the case is abruptly stolen from their juridiction by their old nemesis, the imperial spy Anacrites. Of course, when did that ever stop this doughty and stubborn pair?

The case gets curiouser and curiouser and Falco's extended family becomes involved in its pursuit. But the faithful Lindsey Davis reader can be assured that all will come right for our heroes in the end.

Davis really has the knack of putting her readers right in the middle of ancient Rome. One can almost smell the streets as one strolls through one of her stories. I like the historical detail and the way that she has of showing that the ancient Romans were really no different from us. Some have complained that she sometimes puts modern terms in the mouths of her characters (e.g., "Have they lawyered up?") but that doesn't bother me. I just assume that this is a modern translation of Falco's memoirs.

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