No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

#27: Scandal Takes a Holiday -- Lindsay Davis

A novel that has it all: Romans! Pirates! Heiresses! Murder! and Scandal!

Falco and family head to the seaside -- Ostia -- where 'Infamia', a gossip columnist, has gone missing. Falco, true to form, uncovers a number of other criminal activities: corruption, murder, ransoming and traffic in stolen goods. Though piracy has been thoroughly quashed a century before by Pompey, it's beginning to look as though some of the pirates didn't really notice ...
It depends on how you look at it. Let us land and beat up the locals: you are a pirate; I am a heroic warrior with expansionist pretensions on behalf of my city-state. Goes back at least to Athens ... Piracy was the fast alternative to diplomacy.

Or, to put it another way, pirates are a filthy rash that will always reappear.

Davis is entertaining on Roman history (I'm not sure whether to believe her potted history of the term 'columnist', but I'm pretty convinced by Pirates of the Mediterranean) and as deft with characterisation as ever. I think I'd have enjoyed this novel more if I'd kept up with the series: I flagged somewhere around Last Act in Palmyra, feeling that the later volumes didn't have the freshness or edge of the first few, and as a result I've probably missed a lot of the undercurrents in Falco's family politics. And I have no idea what Petro's up to.

Enjoyable, though, and inclines me to dig out a few of the older ones and submerge myself in gossipy sociable dangerous human Ancient Rome.

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