Sheenagh Pugh's Reviews > Bodies Politic

Bodies Politic by David Wishart
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May 26, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: novels

It seems ages since there was a Corvinus and a recent online interview with Wishart reveals that a change of publisher may be part of the reason. Wishart has left Hodder for a very small print-on-demand outfit.

I'm not sure this was wise. Re production values, I note that the cover and, I think, the paper, are flimsier than in the Hodder books, and for the first time there is no map, either of Rome or of the book's other main setting, Alexandria, which would have been a big help.

As for the story, it is well up to standard and indeed manages, as he often does, to give us a strange frisson of recognition when Corvinus runs into Alexandrian Greek anti-semitism (Romans of his day weren't anti-semitic as such, or no more so than they were anti-anything non-Roman, but Alexandrian Greeks were another matter). When he, and we, hear a character we've met before and liked coming out with this sort of stuff, the distance of centuries suddenly doesn't matter.

I like the book a lot, which is why the carelessness I can see in it annoys me all the more. A couple of times before, Wishart has been careless about continuity in his series. In "The Lydian Baker", he gave the name of Marcus's mother as Volumnia instead of Vipsania; in another book he dithers about whether Aunt Marcia was Fabius's widow or sister-in-law. In this book he has done it again, twice. First, after stating that Marcia's husband was Fabius, he has someone refer to him as Paullus - I think, on the same page. Later he has Corvinus claim to have found out about the sexual tastes of Sulpicius Galba from the man's wife Aemilia, "one of Perilla's poetry-klatsch pals". Well, sorry, but I recall "Last Rites" very well, better in fact than its author seems to, and that ain't so. Perilla didn't know Aemilia and Corvinus didn't find this out from her. He is, I think, confusing her with the wife of Publius Vitellius in "White Murder", who was a friend of Perilla's and also had a peculiar husband.

This really won't do, you know. It gives the impression Wishart doesn't care enough about his own creation to get it right, and that's mildly insulting to all those who do care about it. Do your homework, man! Were it not for this irritant, the review'd be 5 stars.

Oh, and I hope we don't have to wait so long for the next...
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