Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by Lindsey Davis
Mysterious Press, September 2003
336 pages
ISBN: 0892967773

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

We read books for many reasons, and even when "for pleasure," we can subdivide the reason. For pleasure because we feel we should be up with our peers, for pleasure because we feel we should read every book by a given author or in a given series, for pleasure because a book is conveniently at hand. And then after reading a good number of books for all these other reasons, we might read one just to relax.

Lindsey Davis's "Falco" mysteries are to me sheer relaxation. I pour a glass of wine, I put my feet up, and I put the cares of the day away as I escape into the kind of reading that takes my chair and converts it into a hammock in the shade on some lazy beachcombing island.

Falco, a security-type Roman in the employ of the Colosseum-builder Emperor Vespasian (69-79 A.D.), finds himself this time (75 A.D.) on vacation in crude Londinium with his wife Helena. Her uncle is the second in charge of Rome's recently conquered province of Britain. It has been only 15 years since Queen Boudicca of the Iceni tribe rose up against the British occupation, burned London, wiped out the nearby British troops, but then committed suicide when the inevitable greater strength of the Romans prevailed. Londinium is just getting rebuilt, or newly built from scratch, and the Roman Governor is still waiting for his palace to be ready to move in.

In this climate crime is rampart, not only fostered by local Britons coming into Londinium, but also by roving professionals from Rome itself, talented gangsters who recruit the locals to do their dirty work: prostitution, gambling, the protection racket, looting, robbery, anything that promises a quick denarius. Even some officers and men of the Roman legions are secretly on the payroll of the crooks. When a Briton is murdered by being thrown head-first in a well, King Togidubnus, a Roman ally comes to complain to the Roman governor. The murdered man had been the king's friend, but betrayed his trust and went over to the criminal side. Nonetheless, the king wants the murderer found, and the governor assigns the case to vacationing Falco.

Falco's friend, Petronius, an officer in Rome's city guard, has come to London, too. Falco knows that Petronius is also investigating the gang leaders, even though he has no jurisdiction in London. But the divorced Petronius has eyes for Falco's attractive, strong-minded widowed sister, Maia, who is in London with Falco and Helena. Falco finds Petronius and they work together to uncover the murderer of the king's erstwhile friend and undo the entire network of Roman-led gangsters. This brings Falco and Petronius into some heady adventures, giving them first-hand experience with many of the elements that produce the gangs' income, such as prostitution, bars, and the protection game, even including female gladiators, with one of whom Falco once had a steamy affair.

Once again effortlessly we learn a bit about Rome at this time, as well as about the Roman conquest of Britain. Davis builts upon new archeological findings to re-create the London of the time and show the beginning of this crude city built of mud and sticks that gradually grew to become the capital of the powerful England of later times. The reading goes fast, and before we know it, we've finished the book, and now can only look forward to yet newer adventures of this one-time rogue, who has gradually been becoming a respected member of the upper class (Falco is a knight now). This is the 14th of the Falco series, and fortunately there is no sign that it will be the last.

Reviewed by Eugene Aubrey Stratton, August 2003

This book has more than one review. Click here to show all.

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]