Fresh from his trip to far-flung Londinium in Britain, Marcus Didius Falco needs to re-establish his presence in Rome. A minor role in the trial of a senator entangles him in the machinations of two powerful lawyers at the top of their trade. The senator is convicted but then dies, apparently by suicide. It may have been a legal move to protect his heirs, but Falco is hired to prove it was murder. As Falco shows off his talents in the role of advocate, he exposes himself to a tangle of upper-class secrets and powerful elements in Romes legal hierarchy that may have consequences he hadnt quite bargained for.
Fans of "informer" Marcus Didius Falco will be glad to find the classical world's answer to the modern-day gumshoe back in Rome in Davis's stellar historical, the 15th entry in this witty and learned series, after two adventures set in Britain (A Body in the Bathhouse; The Jupiter Myth). In an effort to resume his career as an informer on his home turf, Falco ends up playing advocate in a messy dispute that pits him against two highly successful "legals," Paccius Africanus and Silius Italicus. The convoluted case, which involves a wealthy, fractious family and tricky questions of inheritance, gives Davis the opportunity to explore the vagaries of Roman law, which she approaches with her usual mix of respect and sarcasm. The corruption conviction of senator Rubirius Metellus followed by his mysterious demise threaten the Metelli family's fortunes. Hired to prove the senator's death was not a suicide, Falco finds himself immersed in scandal, blackmail, corruption and intrigue�"common ingredients of legal practice. In one particularly fine scene, Falco delivers a speech in the Basilica that relies on amusing and effective rhetorical tricks. Wry, cynical and principled, Falco makes the perfect guide to Davis's vividly realized ancient Rome.
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September 30, 2004
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