Saturday, August 23, 2014
Enemies at Home by Lindsey Davis
This is Davis's second historical mystery set in Rome during the first century A.D., featuring Flavia Albia, the smart, strong-willed adopted daughter of Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina. Falco and Helena were the featured characters in Davis's previous best-selling series of Roman mysteries.
Now that her parents have retired to their villa on the coast and a life of well-earned leisure, Albia has taken up the job of private informer in her father's footsteps. In the first book of the new series, The Ides of April, Albia identified a serial killer committing murders during the Cerelia or harvest festival. In the course of that investigation she clashed with the plebian aedile, Tiberius Manlius Faustus. Although by the end of the case she and Faustus had come to respect each other's professional abilities, Albia reminds herself not to hope for a personal relationship with him. She would never be a suitable wife for a Roman with political ambitions.
In this new story, which begins a few months later, Faustus hires Albia Flavia to assist him in investigating the murder of wealthy newlyweds Valerius Aviola and Mucia Lucilia, found strangled in their bed two days after their wedding. A valuable collection of silver serving pieces is missing, and the night porter is found beaten senseless at the open front door. Over a dozen other household slaves were in the house that night yet all swear that they saw and heard nothing out of the ordinary until they discovered the bodies the next morning.
Roman law is clear: when the head of a household is murdered, his slaves are immediately suspect. If no other killer is swiftly identified, then all of the household slaves are assumed guilty, tortured until they confess, and summarily executed. Aviola's household slaves, knowing their fate, have fled to sanctuary in the Temple of Ceres.
Faustus has two choices: quickly prove someone else is the killer, or proceed with the execution of the slaves. Albia investigates Aviola's family and friends, and identifies several alternative suspects, but she's also certain the slaves know more than they are saying. Can she find the truth in time?
An intelligent, irreverent mystery set against a vivid portrait of life in Imperial Rome. Davis is currently working on a third novel featuring Flavia Albia. It's possible to read these new stories without knowing the twenty novels in the Marcus Didius Falco series, but if you enjoy Albia you will want to make the acquaintance of Falco. Read them in order, starting with The Silver Pigs.
Click HERE for another review of Enemies at Home.