The Flavia Albia series by Lindsey Davis is one of my favourites. You’ve already had all the Falco series – well, from about halfway through which was when I started blogging. Flavia Albia is his daughter – now grown up, and married. But an Informer, or private investigator, in Ancient Rome, like her Pa. I’m starting to get behind with this series, so I bought the next two I needed and popped them on my to-read shelf. It’s part of my Finishing the Series Reading Challenge this year.
Pandora’s Boy (Flavia Albia Mystery #6)
by Lindsey Davis
Flavia Albia is a private investigator, always drawn to an intriguing puzzle – even if it is put to her by her new husband’s hostile ex-wife. On the Quirinal Hill, Clodia Volumnia, a very young girl with stars in her eyes, has died, amid suggestions that she was poisoned by a love-potion. It will have been supplied by a local witch, who goes by the name of Pandora, though Albia learns that Pandora carries on a trade in herbal beauty products while hiding much more dangerous connections. Pandora’s beloved grandson, a trainee hack lawyer, is one of the dead girl’s empty-headed friends; can this be relevant?
As she homes in on the truth, Albia has to contend with the occult, organised crime, an unusual fertility symbol, and celebrity dining. She discovers the young girl was a handful; her father mediates in disputes, yet has divorced his grief-stricken wife and is now suing his own mother-in-law; Clodia’s so-called friends were none too friendly. The supposedly sweet air of the Quirinal hides the smells of loose morality, casual betrayal and even gangland conflict. When a friend of her own is murdered, Albia determines to expose as much of this local sickness as she can – beginning with the truth about the death of little Clodia. [goodreads]
It had been a while since I’d read the last book, but I quickly remembered that in ended in the wedding – and her poor husband was struck by lightning!
He’s still poorly, but recovering. And then he disappears while she’s out obtaining the gen on her latest case. Something felt odd to me, but it all settled down into the usual excellent mystery, with Lindsey Davis giving us just the right sort of background to Rome of the Emperor Domitian (a very nasty piece), and plenty of families in tangled webs.
I thought this story was one of the best in the series so far. Full of emotion, twists and turns, and always the looming menace of a paranoid emperor in the background to ruin everyone’s fun.
I enjoyed it so much, I decided to read the next one without delay.
The Third Nero (Flavia Albia Mystery #5)
by Lindsey Davis
Flavia Albia’s day-old marriage is in trouble – her new husband may be permanently disabled and they have no funds. So when Palace officials ask her to help expose a plotter in their midst she is obliged to accept their commission.
The plot could not be bigger. Ever since he died in AD 68, apparently by his own hand, Rome has been haunted by reports that the Emperor Nero is in fact very much alive and about to return to claim his throne.
Two Nero pretenders have emerged in the East and met grisly fates. But now, as the Emperor Domitian, whose tyrannical, paranoid reign grows ever more unpopular, fights a war in faraway Dacia, there emerges a far more sinister contender. What’s more the rumour is that this false Nero is already in Rome. Plunged into the conspiracy, Flavia must infiltrate the house of the Parthians who have smuggled in this new impostor, negotiate with spies, dodge the assassins sent by the Palace traitor, and somehow cope with her stricken husband.
Can she succeed before the impostor is revealed? Or will Rome once more be plunged into civil war?(goodreads)
I hadn’t read very far when I realised what I’d done. I’d got these two books in the wrong order. This one starts pretty much the day after the wedding. I think that makes four books running through a period of about three weeks. Hey-ho, well, it doesn’t really matter. I’m sure it was obvious he would survive to the next book, anyway.
There is far less lighthearted revelry in this book, though. The gist of the plot rests on a keen understanding of the political machinations of all of Rome’s eastern enemies. You also need familiarity with the complicated bureaucracy of the spymasters in the Capitol. As usual, the book includes a map of the relevant part of Rome. You can follow Flavia around if you like. Actually, what I really needed was a map of the Roman Empire showing the various independent and satellite countries. I got that Parthia was the ‘other side’ of Judea (and somewhere else) but it was heavy going. Lots of explanation of who did what to whom in the past as well as the ‘present’ accounted for factions and the emergence of numerous false Neros.
There are also a great many people in the cast of characters, some of whom have distressingly similar names.
It’s all written with Ms Davis’s brilliant attention to detail; to sights, smells and the maniacs of Rome. The plot when it is in action (rather than being explained) does well enough, with her wonderful touches of humour. The finale is worthy of a movie of the quality of Ben Hur or Gladiator. I don’t think I’ll forget the rampage of the elephant in a hurry!
But it’s not as good as the others. Maybe I’m psychic and read the other one first on purpose.