Marcus Didius Falco is ancient Rome’s equivalent of a cynical gumshoe just looking for another job to keep his landlord’s thugs off his back. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to look far the day Sosia Camillina runs into him on the steps of the Forum. Falco instantly recognizes that she is in need of help and grasps opportunity, and Sosia, with both hands. Sosia, the daughter of an influential senator, is being chased by ruffians who kidnapped her. Knowing that Rome is corrupt and that it’s all about who you know and what they owe you, Falco returns Sosia to her home, only to become embroiled in a complex web of treachery and deceit that chnges direction as if it were spinning on a dime. Falco follows the trail from Rome to Brittanica and back again, risking life and limb, all the while earning the pittance of a regular gumshoe.
At first I thought this was going to be a terrible Sam Spade kind of book, including all the horrible clichés. Fortunately, Davis doses the cliché with a hefty spoonful of humour. She gives Falco a domineering mother who cleans his flat, tells him off and chases unsuitable girls out of his flat. I quite liked that the women were all fairly strong people who didn’t take any crap from the men just because they’re supposedly the lords and masters of all they survey. Falco’s constantly being beaten up by someone for various reasons, not all having to do with his current case, but he takes it all in his stride as if it were completely normal and understandable. Davis also reveals some rather quirky and sometimes unsavoury facts about life in ancient Rome.
All in all, a good, entertaining read. 4 out of 5.