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by Lindsey Davis
Century, June 2003
320 pages
ISBN: 0712625569

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Marcus Didius Falco and his family have returned to Rome from six months in Britain. He's been asked to pick up an affidavit in an abuse of office case against Rubirus Metellus, but since it is out of town, he sends one of his aristocratic brothers-in-law to do the deed. Rubirus Metellus is found guilty and two weeks later, is found dead, an apparent suicide -- a convicted criminal's estates are forfeit to the state unless he commits suicide, in which case, his heirs inherit. Prosecutor Silius Italicus calls for Falco to investigate whether Metellus actually did commit suicide or was murdered. And the case gets more complicated after that.

Davis has brought to life many aspects of Ancient Rome (this story takes place during the autumn of AD 75 through the spring of AD 76) from mining to building to banking and publishing. In THE ACCUSERS, we learn of the Roman legal system, which is no more tortuous than any modern system.

When Falco figures that Metellus was murdered, but as yet, has no idea of the killer, he decides to pin it on the widow. Helena tells Falco that it will be hard to make Calpurnia confess. The lawyer who has decided to join Falco says "Trials are not decided by evidence, but arguments . . . All we have to do is suggest strenuously that Calpurnia did it."

Falco is mellowing somewhat under the influence of his wife, Helena Justina and his brothers-in-law seem to be on the way to learning the business. When charges are laid against Falco, his senatorial father-in-law whispers in some upper class ears.

All the usual suspects, and more, are present in Rome. In addition to the vagaries of the legal system, we are taught a few things about poison, and meet more interesting characters along the way. May M. Didius Falco live long and prosper.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, November 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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