Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: The Ancient Roman Empire, 73 - 74 A.D.
First Sentence: My partner and I had been well set up to earn our fortunes until we were told about the corpse.
This is the tenth novel of Lindsey Davis's Marcus Didius Falco mystery series.
Falco, and his frenemy Anacrites, have joined forces to work for the emperor on the census. Basically, their job is to audit tax returns. There is big money to be made importing wild animals and training gladiators. Falco hopes to make it rich from his cut of their unpaid taxes. While investigating one wild animal procurer, his trained man-eating lion is found stabbed with a spear. Soon, the prize gladiator of another procurer is found dead. Then, an ostrich is found poisoned. Falco knows that these deaths are related.
Meanwhile, Falco's wife's brother has eloped to Africa. The brother and his new bride hope to make their fortune by rediscovering a rare spice plant thought to be extinct. Falco bundles up his family: wife, daughter, nephew, and brother-in-law off to Africa. They find the young lovers, and Falco begins to find clues that will help him solve the mystery.
I enjoyed this novel. As in real life, the clues don't always line up. Half way through the novel, Falco reaches a point where he basically gives up on the case. But his curiosity remains active, and when he discovers clues, he returns to the case. I did not figure out who-dun-it until the final chapters of the novel.
The novel has another nice touch that I liked. Prior to writing this novel, Davis had written a historical romance set in Rome in the same time period. The main character of "The Course of Honor" makes a brief appearance early in this novel. I like it when authors have crossovers from different novels when it is appropriate.
Since this novel is the tenth of the Falco series, I suggest that the novels are better enjoyed when read in order. However, this novel does stand up pretty well on its own.
Two for the Lions
The Silver Pigs - The first novel of the series.
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