There's no place like home. Unfortunately Marcus Didius Falco is a thousand miles north, stuck in the Roman outpost of Londinium. And just when he's about to pack up his family, assorted relatives, and friend Petronius to return to Rome, a dead body turns up, head down, in a well behind a local drinking establishment. The victim is Verovolcus, a nobleman known to Falco and, more important, a close friend of the king. Suddenly Falco has a murder case to solve before he can get out of town.
Deciding to go undercover to investigate, Falco asks his patrician wife, Helena, to dress up like a neighborhood tart. Incognito, this Roman Nick and Nora undertake that timeless British tradition...the pub crawl. Soon Falco has the makings of a major hangover, a tip that Verovolcus had dealings with dangerous gangsters, and a starving orphan. Actually Helena has the orphan, as her soft heart compels her to take in yet another stray. Falco can't complain. She once took him in.
Sic eunt fata hominum; thus go the fates of men. Following the killer, Falco and his pal Petro delve deeper into the city's demimonde and wind up at an arena featuring female gladiators. Here a surprise waits for Falco, one that's sure to get him in trouble with Helena, while a deadlier one will be found in a deserted part of town. But even among outcasts and rogues, Falco discovers comradeship and honor...and, with his own life hanging in the balance, someone willing to die for a friend.
Davis's 14th clever, witty adventure (after 2001's A Body in the Bathhouse) starring the suave Marcus Didius Falco, from Ancient Rome, finds the informer/investigator plying his talents on the mean and muddy streets of Londinium, Britannia, in A.D. 75. In fact, almost everything about the growing community is mean, from its dark and dingy bars to the sprawling wharves and warehouses. The discovery of a body jammed headfirst into a bar's well is enough to get Falco sent to the scene as an expert on unnatural death. Falco needs all his celebrated intelligence to survive the ensuing problems. Davis skillfully braids references to Britain's future into her story of its past without ever diminishing the thrust of Falco's adventures. And what adventures! The murder victim is a disgraced henchman of King Togidubnus, an important ally of Rome. Solving and avenging the death quickly is important to placate the king. Civil order is in disrepair, while the rapidly growing city is ripe pickings for the ambitious gangsters moving in from Rome, whom Falco and his friend Petronius, have battled before. An entourage that includes wife Helena, their two small children, his sister, Maia, and her four children gives Falco questionable help. This thoroughly entertaining addition can only burnish the luster of this fine series.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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April 30, 2004
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