Review: The Ides of April, By Lindsey Davis. Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99

 

Jane Jakeman
Wednesday 24 April 2013 07:13
Comments

In Nemesis we left Falco, Lindsey Davis's Roman sleuth, on a sombre note, suffering the loss of a father and a child. Perhaps life had become too dark for him to take centre-stage in another novel.

We don't lose sight of Falco now – he has cheered up enough to sell a load of fake antiques at an auction – but he is in the background. The sleuthing tradition is carried on by his daughter, Flavia Albia, adopted in Britain and now living by her wits.

She has acquired Falco's sardonic intelligence and has her own hideaway deep in an enticing Roman slum – the secret retreat creative people dream about. But Albia emerges from her bolthole for a profitable case that might employ her talents. Falco has trained her in observation, so when she discovers that a client has dropped dead without paying a bill, our heroine sets out to look for unusual features.

The heir seems well disposed, unlikely to have bumped off the unpleasant old skinflint, but the death is one of a number of such unexplained cases. Is there a silent killer stalking Rome? Albia, showing a particular interest in these cases, becomes a suspect herself. Researching into Roman death registers, she seems to acquire an admirer in the archivist – a relationship put in jeopardy when she kebabs one of his officials. Soon we are plunging into the festering old alleys that Davis does so well.

The season is the Feast of Ceres on the Ides of April, when epic games and festivals take place, as does an ancient and unpleasant rite involving cruelty to foxes. It is characteristic of Davis's skilled plotting that this episode is integral to the story and not merely the usual nasty add-on involving the Roman arena. The festival, where the vestals play an important role, gives Albia the opportunity to disguise herself in virginal white and carry a small but effective dagger under the draperies.

Flavia proves a worthy successor to her wily father and, as always, under all the excitement runs the solidity of Davis's historical knowledge: the silent killings were recorded by an ancient historian. Sudden death in ancient Rome – there was a lot of it about. Thank the gods!

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in