By Lindsey Davis
Century (Random House UK) - June 2002
ISBN 0712680446 HB
Historical Crime
AD75, Londinium (London)

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

There aren't that many sleuths around who are into their fourteenth case and still show no sign of flagging, but Falco seems to be managing it nicely. Still in misty, inclement and dreary Britain, this time he is in Londinium, staying with his wife's relatives. But even this supposed domestic bliss is short-lived, for the ex-bodyguard of Rome's ally King Togidubnus has been found, stuffed headfirst down a well in a seedy bar. Falco recognizes him and is instantly dragooned into solving the case for his new Uncle Hilaris, the procurator of finance. Trying to sort out his sister Maia's complicated love life and trace the missing Petronius, Falco soon finds himself embroiled in a sordid and increasingly dangerous case involving gangsters, female gladiators, various old friends and enemies and wishing fervently he was back in sunny Rome.

Anybody reading these reviews over a period of time will notice that I tend to berate these novels for not being sufficiently exciting and for portraying Rome as being too modern. Fortunately, Lindsey Davis is back on form and this is a humdinger of a tale replete with action, romance, humor and tying up some loose plot ends by resurrecting faces from the past. What is more, this is a book steeped in the past and very aware of it, as Falco tramps the dingy streets of Londinium and remembers the massacre following Boadiccea's uprising and sees some of his suspects being grilled by a professional torturer. This is a fragile world, where life expectancy is a lot less than today and the ramshackle outpost town of Londinium is a far cry from the modern comforts of Rome. The last Davis book I enjoyed this much was "Last Act in Palmyra" and so I can honestly say…more, more, please--like this one!


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