This is a novella, a whirling spin-off from my spin-off. It is narrated for us hairy barbarians by Marcus Didius Alexander Postumus, a boy convinced of his own intelligence and superiority, although he is only twelve (or perhaps eleven) and more vulnerable than he thinks. Carried off to be with Thalia, his birth mother, he brings his ferret, Ferret, his only friend, together with a determined curiosity to learn who his father is. This may not be good news for those he deems to be possible fathers.
When something happens to Ferret, Postumus proceeds to investigate the crime in the style of his adoptive father Falco and his big sister Albia. In the process he wreaks every kind of havoc.
Meanwhile Thalia and her acrobatic troupe and animals, with Davos (remember him?) and his actors, and even Sophrona who plays the unforgettable water organ, are trying to persuade Manlius Faustus to book them for the Roman Games. The central attraction is to be that rip-roaring comedy, the prototype for Hamlet written by Falco, The Spook Who Spoke. So will anybody get to see the play? Will Postumus kill the producer or burn down the stadium? And are we finally to discover whose Spook it is – and whatever it was he said?…
‘I suppose you know what “strict instructions” means, Postumus?’ I nodded. ‘Strict’ ones are where it is best to wait a long while before you ignore them, so it will seem better when you pretend that because you are only a little boy, you forgot being told the instructions.’
Chosen by reader George Bell.