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Last Act in Palmyra (Marcus Didius Falco #6)

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  2,633 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
The spirit of adventure callls Marcus Didius Falco on a new spying mission for the Emperor Vespasian to the untamed East. He's picking up extra fees from his old friend Thalia the snake dancer as he searches for Sophrona, her lost water organist. With the Chief Spy Anacrites paying his fare, Falco knows anything can go wrong.

A dangerous brush with the Brother, the sinister
...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published 1994 by Century (Random House)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Matthew Gatheringwater
I keep waiting for the next book in the series to be a dud, but they just seem to get better and better. I'm enchanted by the romance between Falco and Helana--like Nick and Nora Charles in Imperial Rome--I like the carelessly anachronistic attitude toward speech and detail, and the author's continual allusions to British history and literature is a charming running joke. I suspect part of the reason I enjoy reading these stories is because the author enjoys writing them. They come across as lig ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
In 'Last Act in Palmyra' Marcus Didius Falco, ancient 72 AD Roman detective, on a missing persons assignment for Thalia, circus owner as well as a snake charmer, joins a traveling actor troupe earning its living putting on plays throughout Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. The beautiful Helena Justina accompanies Falco to help him locate the missing talented musician, Sophrona. Sophrona does not want to be found, but the boyfriend for whom she ran away, Habib, is a Syrian businessman, so that is where ...more
Marcus
Aug 29, 2011 Marcus rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, it was only to be expected – Lindsey Davis’ steady cruise from a high point to a high point has finally been interrupted. ‘Last Act In Palmyra’ is a slow-paced, somewhat dull detective story that dragged on and on. Davis’ characteristic witty writing style is still there, but somehow subdued, without any really memorable moments. The saving grace of this book is colorful characterization of supporting characters. I really hope that Lindsey Davis returns to her previous form in next book of ...more
Jamie Collins
Set in A.D. 72, Falco and Helena travel the length of the Decaopolis with a band of actors. They're trying to find a murderer, of course, as well as track down a missing girl. The author has fun framing the book's sections as if they were acts in a play.

I missed Rome as a setting, but this was very entertaining. I am consistently amused by the writing, and I'm enjoying Falco and Helen's slowly advancing romance. Looking forward to the next book in the series.
Writerlibrarian
This is an excentric journey into the East, Falco and Helena travel through the Middle East from Petra, all around the Decapolis to Damascus ending in a grand spectacle in Palmyra. Helena is less present and the mystery is a bit longish. This is a reread for me still I didn't remember most of the plot. Still, it's entertaining, well plotted and is almost an ancient world travelogue and a good one. Still 4 stars.
Sarah
Dec 13, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite in the series, probably, if for no other reason than the shameless thievery from Shakespeare. ("The Spook Who Spoke" - destined for greatness.)
Johnny
This is the first Lindsay Davis novel which has disappointed me. My indifference to Last Act in Palmyra may be more my problem than the author’s. Ironically, it is the very nature of the “realism” in the book that seems to have removed my “suspension of disbelief” for the story. I realize it is somewhat oxymoronic when I say that the realism of Falco’s investigative procedure is what undermined my immersion into this first century setting, but the plodding itinerary of the investigation with ver ...more
Damaskcat
Mar 07, 2013 Damaskcat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Falco has been asked by Thalia to try and find one of her employees who has disappeared. Fortunately he can combine the search with a commission from the Emperor Vespasian so he decides to combine business with pleasure and take Helena with him. After finding a dead body at the top of a hill at a shrine, Falco and Helena have to move on hurriedly and a priest, Musa, goes with them. They join forces with a travelling theatre group and Falco acquires the job of tracking down the murderer who was o ...more
Helen
I really looked forward to this one because I have seen pictures of Petra a number of times and heard people talk about visiting there so I was interested to see what MS Davis would do with the place when it was functioning. I don't know why I didn't worry too much about the murder, unless it was that seeing the different towns was so fascinating that it took precedence over the mystery, although I certainly cared about the musician. All of this series is lively and fun with literary references ...more
Ruth
Jul 12, 2012 Ruth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-historical
C1994. FWFTB: spying, Nabataean, Petra, theatre, killer. I am working my way through the Falco novels and this is number 6. I loved it. I think I have said before that you do not read these books for the murder/crime part but for the story of the characters which just gets better and better.This was probably the easiest murder to solve with the least likely reason for Falco to get involved but this is really a minor issue (ha ha). The gentle humour is really well done.“He looked like a friendly ...more
Tess
I'm not exactly sure what it was that made this book so hard to read for me. While the premise sounded promising - Falco and Helena are on a roadtrip with a theatre group, trying to find a missing girl while trying to solve the usual murder mystery - the execution was rather ... tiresome.

Endless descriptions of yet another city (even though they all felt the same to me), interrogations of actors from the group (who all seemed petty and unlikeable) that never led to any results, Falco stabbing i
...more
Terence
Oct 06, 2012 Terence rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical fiction & mystery fans
The situation in Rome becoming uncomfortable, Falco finds it expedient to take an assignment (two, in fact, one from the Emperor and another from Thalia, the statuesque snake-dancer from The Silver Pigs) that takes him and Helena Justina to the Empire's eastern frontier.

Last Act in Palmyra read a bit more grimly than the previous few novels, going back to the atmosphere of the first book, but I still enjoyed it and continue to recommend the series.
Larry
May 27, 2017 Larry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main action of this book takes place in the Decapolis, the "ten cities" in eastern Palestine. Falco replaces a murdered playwright in a travelling theatre group. The book bogs down a bit, because they do have to visit 10 distinct cities. Falco's relationship with Helena Justina deepens. It is a quite satisfactory book.
Muff
May 17, 2017 Muff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Not the best entry in the series. The auxiliary characters were tedious and I didn't care about the mystery. Would have liked more about the travels in Syria. Fun to see Thalia and her snakes again.
Beachcomber
Somewhere between 2 and 3 stars. It just dragged on and on, each of the towns sounding alike... I was a little bored, so rounded down to 2 stars. This series does have a tendency to alternate good and average books, so hopefully the next one is better.
Alba
Los libros de Didio Falco me los leo siempre como intermedio relajante entre otras lecturas porque són eso, novelas entretenidas que se leen con la calma, el típico libro que te leerías en verano o de viaje. Me gusta el tono irónico de Falco, como siempre, aunque esta vez tanto viaje por Decápolis no me ha gustado tanto como los casos que pasan en Roma. Deberían revisar la edición, en este he notado muchos errores.
Mary Beth
Colorful but very sluggish, Last Act is only intermittently entertaining as a mystery, but Davis's wit—and her vibrant characterizations of the members of a theatrical troupe Falco and Helena fall in with—keep the novel from being a dud. Plus, the winking anachronistic allusions to Shakespeare's plays are a lot of fun.
Francis Mulhern
Disappointing
Poor story. I wasnt sure why Falco was involved in this 'mystery' and is became a chore to read it to the end.
Shame
Ric
Feb 25, 2017 Ric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is always fascinating how Falso eventually resolves the who done it. As many authors tend to do, the story at times gets carried away with what the characters are thinking about, adding nothing to the story, but giving an insight into a more in depth character analysis (often unnecessary and falling into the realm of who cares). Though I am enjoying the stories, often I need to consult a map or ten on where we are coming from and going to. Having been to so of the places it is interesting fro ...more
Dyana
Jul 16, 2015 Dyana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You cannot read these historical fiction books about informer (private eye) Marcus Didius Falco without a smile on your face. They are humorous with witty dialogue and clever repartee between Falco and his girlfriend Helena, a senator's daughter with a soft spot for Falco who is below her in rank - true lovers.

Anacrites, the official Chief Spy for Emperor Vespasian, has asked Falco to travel to Nabataea to scout out the political climate and find out what land might possibly be annexed to Roman
...more
~Anita~
Sep 01, 2014 ~Anita~ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
This story takes place on a long journey east of Rome. 3/4 through the book you feel like you've been on a long journey. Resolution is satisfactory.
Simon Mcleish
Mar 09, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog here in July 1998.

The sixth in Davis' Falco series about a first century private detective. Falco combines several investigations into one trip. Firstly, he's asked by the imperial household (the customer who expects to pay no fees) to take a look at the state of Nabatea, independent but only just over the edge of the empire. An old friend, the snake-dancer Thalia (now circus entrepeneur), asks him to look for a missing protege of hers, the water-organ player Soph
...more
Jim
Aug 31, 2011 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The primary murder mystery dragged interminably, and the way ALL the threads tied together at the far end of the Roman world in the Last Act was more outlandish than usual for a Falco mystery. Structuring it like a play, and the inference from Falco that this is all being written many years after the fact (references to Trajan), gives the sense that the narrator is well aware of the absurdities at play, and torments us throughout.

The narration is also a reminder that it's more about the journey
...more
Cindy Matthews
It's been a few years since I read a Falco mystery by Lindsey Davis so when I finally got a hold of Last Act in Palmyra, I was happy to delve into the world of ancient Rome once again. Falco is the same sleuth as he ever was--resourceful, trustworthy, worldly, cynical, and madly in love with a senator's daughter, Helena Justina. The setting in the cities of the Decapolis is interesting, and the details of everyday life in the first century Roman world are fascinating, as Davis is terrific with b ...more
Simon Binning
This entry in Lindsey Davis' Falco series sees the main protagonist once again far from Rome in the borders of the empire and beyond. Sent by his old sparring partner Anacrites to do a bit of spying on the Nabataeans (at least, that is what he is told) he also picks up a side case to search for a missing water organist by another old acquaintance. He is joined on the journey by Helena, and together they come across a murder or two, a travelling theatre company, a reticent priest, and a snake (or ...more
Timons Esaias
This is the sixth in the Didius Falco series (the first of which, Silver Pigs, is required reading), and sees the informer sent into Nabataea and the Decapolis; and finally to Syria for the title event.
The "case" is a runaway hydraulis player, known to have snuck off to the East with a young gentleman whose family ties are unknown. Then the Emperor adds a mission to the mix, as well. (The mission for Vespasian gets rather lost in the last two thirds of the book, and was never very clear to beg
...more
Nancy
Love the series, but not this installment. The book has less sparkle on the whole, though the writing is so assured, with lines like: Above us soared a sky that a bad lyric poet would certainly have called cerulean. But we get dragged around too many desert towns trying to solve the whodunit murder-mystery involving a traveling theatrical troupe. Falco feels the same way: I had had enough. I was sick of stones in my shoes and the raw smell of camel's breath. I wanted glorious monuments and tower ...more
M.G. Mason
In this, the sixth book in the “Falco” series, our hero is sent east to spy for Emperor Vespasian. So much for cutting ties to the imperial house. While there he chooses to investigate the disappearance of a young musician by the name of Sophrona. After meeting up with a troupe of actors, Falco is roped into becoming their playwright for the duration of his stay.

I felt that this is the weakest in the series since Shadows in Bronze. Though her usual high-quality writing is maintained, and it is i
...more
Marilag
Nov 10, 2011 Marilag rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The play's the thing" indeed. The entire last act more than made up for the tedious traveling across the Decapolis. Not that I minded too much over the traveling, it was definitely more entertaining with an acting troupe roaming the countryside. Plus, the scenery was refreshing and completely away from Rome (or Italy for that matter). And Falco a playwright!

As usual, I loved these books mostly because of the charming point of view that the narrator has. The fact that Falco also has a stalwart g
...more
Christy
Jul 01, 2012 Christy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Falco fans
Oh goodness, I've completely neglected my Falco reviews. Shame on me! This is the thing about the Falco series, you see: once you've gotten into them you suddenly find yourself unable to stop. If Roman historical fiction and mystery novels are your thing, then well, this is for you! However, this book would certainly make a poor introduction to the series. It suffers from bridging novel syndrome, in which the events of this novel really only serve to move along the greater movements of the prota ...more
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Lindsey Davis, historical novelist, was born in Birmingham, England in 1949. Having taken a degree in English literature at Oxford University (Lady Margaret Hall), she became a civil servant. She left the civil service after 13 years, and when a romantic novel she had written was runner up for the 1985 Georgette Heyer Historical Novel Prize, she decided to become a writer, writing at first romanti ...more
More about Lindsey Davis...

Other Books in the Series

Marcus Didius Falco (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco, #1)
  • Shadows in Bronze (Marcus Didius Falco, #2)
  • Venus in Copper (Marcus Didius Falco, #3)
  • The Iron Hand of Mars (Marcus Didius Falco, #4)
  • Poseidon's Gold (Marcus Didius Falco, #5)
  • Time to Depart (Marcus Didius Falco, #7)
  • A Dying Light in Corduba (Marcus Didius Falco, #8)
  • Three Hands in the Fountain (Marcus Didius Falco, #9)
  • Two for the Lions (Marcus Didius Falco, #10)
  • One Virgin Too Many (Marcus Didius Falco, #11)

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