Century (Random House UK)
Date: 5 June 2003
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Historical Crime [1st Century AD, Rome]
Rachel A Hyde
Davis has become something of an institution, and has possibly inherited
the mantle vacated by the late Ellis Peters as a bestselling author
of a long-running series of historical crime novels. Her "Falco"
series is now on its fifteenth book, and sees its hero and his extended
family back from England and straight into the teeth of another
case. A senator has been on trial for abuse of his office, but now
is dead, apparently by his own hand. A wealthy lawyer hires Falco
to prove it was murder, and thus embroils him and his associates
(his two brothers-in-law) in a tortuous case involving strange wills,
disinherited family members and corruption in high places. Falco
gets his chance to play advocate and speak in court - but this sort
of work is a gamble, and the stakes are very high indeed.
In this story Davis does for the law
what she has done in earlier books for banking and building. This
time she wisely reminds us of the vast gulf that separates these
modern-seeming folk from us and shows us a world where people die
in childbirth, slaves are tortured for confessions and the law differs
greatly from our own. There is a lot of reading in this book-a tortuous
tale that makes for a more cerebral and complex read than some of
her earlier work. There is plenty of humor here, but a lot else
besides. A lot of research has been done to come up with such a
well-realized tale and shows that this series shows no sign of flagging.
Apart from the end, this is not a particularly exciting book but
its sheer intricacy ought to interest and stimulate where simpler
stories fail to engage. One of the stronger entries in a variable
but always popular series.