Minotaur, Aug 31 2010, $24.99
In AD 77 on a hot summer day in Rome, informer Marcus Didius Falco has twin tragedies strike him almost simultaneously. His newborn son dies just hours after being born and when he took his baby to be buried on his father’s property, he learns his dad died also. As the heir Marcus must make quick business decisions. Marcus has a contract to deliver over a hundred statues to the amphitheater, but when he arrives to pay his father’s supplier for them and pick them up, Julius Modestus and his wife Livia Primilla are nowhere to be found.
The nephew of the missing couple takes remittance for the statues. He also informs Marcus that his Uncle Julius complained about Nobilis of the Claudii family who reside in the desolate Pontine Marshes. Marcus soon learns that the mutilated body of Modesto has been found. Falco and his friend vigiles Petronius investigate. They visit the Pontine Marshes and see how trashy the Claudii live and how everyone in a miles wide radius fears them. As they make progress on the case, their enemy Chief Spy Anacrites takes over the inquiry. Falco realizes someone high up in the government is protecting the Claudii so he and his partner continue their probe.
Falco is home after a best selling trip to Alexandria; once again Lindsey Davis brings to life Rome mostly through the eyes of the informer. As a sort of anti-hero, Falco gets his hands dirty while seeking justice for his late father’s deceased supplier though the inquiry enables him to put his grief as the sandwich generation mourning two deaths on hold. The rest of the cast is strong especially the protagonist’s partner, the first century bureaucrat Anacrites and the squalid living Claudii who ironically have high level protection. This is a terrific Ancient Rome whodunit with surprising twists and Falco running from his grief.