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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Saturnalia by Lindsey Davis

Genre: Historical Mystery

Setting: Ancient Rome, 76 A. D.

This novel is one of Lindsey Davis's Falco series.  She has written twenty Falco novels.  Falco is a fantastic character.  He has to balance his sleuthing with keeping peace in his family.  Between his sisters and his divorced parents, family business can be a full time job for Falco.

Falco is aided in his investigations, and family complications by his wife, Helena.  Helena is an independent Roman woman.  She is the daughter of a Senator, yet she is not afraid to accompany Falco on dangerous missions.

In this episode of the Falco series, a famous Roman general has returned to Rome with a Germanic warrior priestess as a prisoner.  He plans to have her ritually executed as part of his Triumph celebrations.  To keep her hidden from the public eye, she has been put up with a Roman senator's family in their villa outside of Rome.  When the priestess discovers his plans, she escapes into the city of Rome.

Marcus Didius Falco is called in to find the priestess.  Unfortunately for Falco, this is not just a simple missing person case.
  • The Senator's brother-in-law was found beheaded on the day the priestess vanished. 
  • Falco's brother-in-law once had an affair with the priestess.
  • Falco's brother-in-law is also missing.
  • Falco has been assigned a troop of soldiers to help with the search.
  • The soldiers move into Falco's house.
  • The festival of Saturnalia is approaching, and with it all of the social and familial responsibilities of the  head of a Roman family.
  • And, Falco notices that somebody has been murdering poor, homeless vagrants at night.
Can Falco find the priestess, discover who killed the senator's brother-in-law, round up his own brother-in-law before he does something stupid and ruins his marriage, and determine who has been murdering the vagrants?

Along with keeping track of the soldiers, managing his household slaves, and raising his daughters, it looks like a busy Saturnalia celebration for Falco and his family.

I really enjoy Davis's Falco novels.  Through Falco we see life in ancient Rome.  Along with the temples and palaces, we visit the back alleys and tenements of that ancient city.  This novel is a great addition to the series and a great read.


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