This is the latest in Lindsey Davis’s effortlessly brilliant Flavia Albia series, a spin-off from her hugely popular Marcus Didius Falco books. Albia is Falco’s adopted daughter, a private investigator in ancient Rome during the reign of Domitian, now also dealing with her motherless nephews after the death of her magistrate husband Tiberius’s sister. It’s the festival of Saturnalia, and Rome is gearing up for debauchery; Albia needs to find something to investigate... Lighthearted, witty and effortlessly clever, just like its wonderful heroine – “I always seem to be stumbling upon suspicious deaths, and since I don’t trust the vigils to investigate, I often knuckle down to it myself. A woman’s work is never done” – this is a window into ancient Rome, and a tonic and a joy to read.
The details have always been the real source of fascination in the novels of Lindsey Davis: the nine Flavia Alba books are far more than mere mash-ups of Up Pompeii! and Horrible Histories. The research supports her beady-eyed examination of human relationships. Anyone for sheep’s-tongue confit or mussel-forcemeat sausage? It all climaxes in a spectacular show at the Flavian Amphitheatre in which some of the bad guys are finally brought to book.