LAST RITES by David Wishart
Hodder & Stoughton - August 2001
ISBN 0340768851 - Hardcover
Historical Mystery - 1st Century (Reign of Tiberius), Rome

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde,
Buy a US Copy || Buy a UK Copy

Marcus Corvinius is back in Rome after his self-imposed exile in Athens. The morning after the sacred all-female rites of the Good Goddess a Vestal is found dead in a way that could be either murder or suicide. Either is going to cause a lot of problems so senator Lucius Arruntius turns to Marcus to help him out. Instantly he is on dangerous ground, trying to find out if she was seeing a man and if she had any enemies. Could the replacement flute girl at the party have been a man in disguise? Aided in his investigations by another lively flute girl and thwarted at every turn (not leastways by his wife's newfangled Greek clock) Marcus soon finds that he might just have bitten off more than he can chew.

If anybody reading this novel can guess whodunit then they ought to win a prize; it is surely one of the most convoluted and intricate cases imaginable and none the less enjoyable for not being a straight "puzzle" mystery. As ever with Wishart's books the plot comes first and the actual ambience second for although his Rome is well researched it all sounds just too modern at times and Marcus is in many ways more akin to a time traveler from today than an actual Roman. The Ancient Romans were sophisticated in many ways, far more so than people would be for nearly two thousand years but this is still the ancient world and a vast gulf separates then and now. Somehow I didn't feel that the gulf was being represented. This gripe aside - and it seems to be a gripe that I find with almost all novels about Ancient Rome - this is one hell of a well-plotted mystery that grabs the reader and won't let go.

© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved