The Ides of April by Lindsey Davis
27 June, 2013
So I was almost crazy with joy when I found out Lindsey Davis had written a new Roman mystery featuring the next generation of Marcus Didius Falco’s family. His P.I. mantle has been taken over by his adopted daughter Flavia Albia, a well-seasoned, spirited 28 year old who is no wide-eyed innocent. I wondered whether it would work. I needn’t have worried for Davis is at the top of her game. I fell in love with Albia, just as quickly as I did with Falco.
The Ides of April is a significant day in Flavia Albia’s life. Already a seasoned P.I. after 12 years trudging the streets of Rome uncovering scams and catching adulterers and occasional thiefs, Albia is still required to attend an evening at home to celebrate her birthday. Her raucous and voluminous family usually leave her alone but there is no way she can get out of this. And nor does she want to. But she is busy with a new case; a recent client has been found suddenly dead under suspicious circumstances. When her neighbour also dies suddenly and it looks like there are more recent ‘natural’ deaths across Rome, Albia grows suspicious. Especially when she is officially warned off the case. With the help of Andronicus, the good-looking and charming secretary of the local magistrate, and his surly colleague and the magistrate’s runner, Tiberius, Albia begins to uncover some disturbing facts which throws suspicion upon a lot of important people. Will she find the slippery killer before he strikes again? And should she really be contemplating starting a love affair when she should be concentrating on staying alive?
The Ides of April, subtitled Falco: The New Generation is just that. Falco stays in the background only making limited appearances as befitting the father of a very independent, working woman. 12 years have passed since Nemesis. Vespasian is dead and so is his son Titus. And it is the difficult and increasingly paranoid Domition who now sits on Rome’s Imperial throne. In contrast to Vespasian’s era when Falco plied his trade in a Rome that had finally settled into some form of stability, Albia is living in darker, more paranoid times. Domition is obsessed about his image and has tightened morality in his city. The Praetorian Guards control the streets and you don’t want to run into them in the dark when disappearances have become increasingly common. Albia is street-wise, refusing to lose her freedom, but careful nonetheless. Rome is a dangerous place politically and socially and people are careful about what they say. Davis makes sure we realise times have changed. And yet, she somehow still manages to sneak in lots of humour, grumbling about the Romans and their mad ways and the even madder bureaucratic red tape.
Albia is just brilliant. Hard-nosed, jaded and with just the right amount of vulnerability to keep her human. More like Helena Justina, her foster mother, than she imagines, she’s also a younger version of Falco. The assortment of people she socialises and works with is interesting as are all her young family who have now grown up. I can’t wait for the next in the series, Enemies at Home which will be out next year. Hurry!
In the meantime, I’ll be catching up with Domitian in Davis’ novel, Master and God. Shivers already!