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Monday, January 14, 2013

Alexandria by Lindsey Davis

Genre: Historical Mystery

Setting: Egypt, 77 AD

First Sentence:  They say that you can see the lighthouse from thirty miles away.

This novel is the nineteenth in Davis's Marcus Didius Falco mystery series.

Alexandria, Egypt was a popular tourist destination in 77AD.  It  was famous for its lighthouse, and for its Great Library.  Nearby, were the pyramids.  The library was part of a great center for learning.  Students and teachers came from all parts of the Roman Empire to learn and teach in Alexandria.

Marcus Didius Falco and his family are in Alexandria on a sightseeing trip.  His pregnant wife, Helena, wants to see the pyramids while she still can travel.  They will be staying at the home of Falco's uncle.  On their arrival, Falco's uncle throws a great banquet.  The guest of honor is the Chief Librarian of the Great Library.

The very next day the Librarian is found dead in his office.  Falco feels that he should investigate because the Librarian has died ingesting  toxic oleander leaves.  And the night before, Falco's family had given him a garland made of oleander blossoms.

During his investigation, Falco discovers that everyone seems to think that he is working for the Emperor.  To be sure, Falco has worked for the Emperor in the past.  And he is not above letting people believe that he is working for the Emperor now - even if it's not true.

Falco soon finds out the the library is a morass of double-dealing, back-stabbing, murder, and theft.  No one will give him a straight answer.  But Falco knows that something illegal is going on.  To make matters worse, Falco's father shows up.  Soon he and Falco's uncle become entangled in the dirty dealings.

Some of the clues that Falco uncovers could point back to Falco's father, uncle, or Falco himself.

Will Falco be able to unravel the complex knot of clues and find out what is really going on in the library?

The ancient city of Alexandria serves as an exotic background for this mystery novel.  As Falco works gathering clues, we get a tour of the city and its grand edifices.  Davis describes the beauty of the library, the temples, and the city itself.

The plot of the mystery is somewhat confusing with a long list of characters with exotic Roman, Greek, and Egyptian names.

Never the less, I always enjoy a visit with Falco and his unique family.   And, Falco's wife Helena gets my vote for the most trusting, understanding, and supportive wife ever!


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