Saturday, July 23, 2016
The Graveyard of the Hesperides by Lindsey Davis
The fourth book in Davis' new series featuring Flavia Albia, the adopted daughter of private informer Marcus Didias Falco (the star of Davis' previous and very popular 20-volume series).
Albia has been making her own way in the world, since the death of her first husband, as a private informer like her adopted father, Falco. It's a precarious occupation for a man in 1st century Rome under the Flavian emperors, and even more precarious for a woman, but Albia is resourceful and determined to succeed. In the course of her work, over the three previous novels, she has become acquainted with the plebian aedile or magistrate, Tiberius Manlius Faustus, who has retained her to assist him in his investigative duties. Professional respect develops, over time, into a warmer personal regard, and Manlius has moved into Albia's apartment and into her heart.
Now he wants a formal wedding ceremony to make their commitment public and official. Unnecessary says Albia, but she capitulates, since it means so much to Manlius, although she leaves all the arrangements to him. Manlius promptly enlists the assistance of Albia's younger sisters.
To be fair, both Albia and Manlius have other things on their minds right now: Manlius has just taken over a construction company and is in the middle of renovating a seedy old bar, the Garden of the Hesperides, for its new owner. Then the construction crew unearths a jumble of human bones on the site, and work screeches to a halt. Manlius, as a magistrate, must pursue justice for the unknown victim. Albia is his investigator. She quickly learns of a longstanding rumor in the district that the previous owner of the Garden of the Hesperides (now dead) murdered a popular waitress, Rufia, and buried her in the courtyard of the bar to cover up his crime.
Albia presumes that the bones are those of the long-missing Rufia, but further grim discoveries at the Garden of the Hesperides soon suggest there is much more to this tale than the neighbors are telling.
This is really one of Davis' best efforts yet. Albia's wedding is a comedy of well-meant errors, contrasted with her persistence in unraveling a vicious crime. And then there is the incredible pleasure of following Albia as she navigates the streets and alleys of 1st century Rome during the reign of Domitian, allowing us to experience the daily life of ordinary people with a visceral immediacy.
While it's not necessary to read the Falco series or the previous three Flavia Albia books (Ides of April, Enemies at Home, and Deadly Election) to enjoy this book, if you do enjoy it, I urge you to hunt up Davis' backlist. You will not be sorry!
Click HERE to read the review from the Historical Novel Society web site.
Click HERE to read the review from Kirkus; and HERE for the review from Publishers Weekly.
Click HERE for the review from the For Winter Nights blog.