In the third, and final, book of the ‘Partners’ trilogy, Falco was intended to work with Helena’s nice brother, Justinus. That seemed too good to be true, so he acquires a trickier helper – not to mention both his previous partners, Petronius and Anacrites, who hover around hoping to see him fall flat on his face.
An appeal to help a young child draws him reluctantly into the world of the Roman state cults – in which Fortune has given him a role of his own, though as he says, up to his boot-thongs in goose shit. A member of the Arval Brethren is murdered in their Sacred Grove, causing a sinister cover-up by the establishment, while the Vestal Virgins Lottery looks equally murky and is complicated by an association with Queen Berenice of Judaea that has attracted gossip. Hemmed in by patriarchal priests and their inbred offspring, grappled by Virgins without consciences, and imprisoned under threat of execution, Falco was already in enough trouble trying to look after his widowed sister and her heartbroken children – and that’s before he has to dangle upside down over a very deep hole, supported only by the three partners who may be only too happy to drop him …
Research Note: This is the one where I researched Virginity from memory.
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Dinah Lampitt (Deryn Lake) for the inspiration of the straight upper cut – and for asking ‘Would Romans have worn underpants?’
‘The narrative bowls along in this story of the gruesome corpse and the dark secrets in a noble family of high priests and Vestal Virgins. Falco is so entertainingly sharp witted that any reservation about the combination of a modern genre and long-dead history are overcome. If Ancient Rome was not like this, it ought to have been. The book is as lively as a beaker of the finest Falernian wine’ – The Independent
‘Davis adroitly pulls off the trick of ensuring that her detective’s anachronistically modern sensibility does not seem out of place in ancient Rome. The politics are, as usual, remarkably well handled with the pressure on the beleaguered Falco greater than before because of his new responsibilities. The sight, sound, and smell of Rome is captured with even greater pungency than usual.’ – Dillons in Publishers News
‘Pretty certainly the most popular of historical crime story writers now operating. She makes the whole immensely detailed backgrounds seem absolutely natural and authentic; she also has a deadpan throwaway wit which makes her stories bubble along…’ – Birmingham Post
‘The most loveable precursor of all those tender-hearted tough guys in crime fiction…Falco’s lively narration of his adventure combines humour with sharp observation, making this one of the most entertaining books of the year so far.’ – Sunday Telegraph.
“Didn’t she tell you? She thinks her family want to kill her,” said Helena.
“Oh, that’s all right then. I was worried it might have been a real emergency.”
Chosen by reader, Helen Ilg