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Last Act in Palmyra

(Marcus Didius Falco #6)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,128 ratings  ·  134 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
Kindle Edition, 420 pages
Published February 15th 2011 by Cornerstone Digital (first published 1994)
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4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,128 ratings  ·  134 reviews

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This story is well into the saga of Marcus Didius Falco, solver of mysteries great and small in the Roman Empire circa 72 C.E. For me, it has been the least satisfying of Davis’ efforts.

Have you heard of The Decapolis? These are ten cities, not yet a formal part of the Empire, that are located within the trade routes between Petra to the south and Damascus to the north. Is Falco being sent there because the Emperor is deciding whether to incorporate them? Or, is he really just gathering facts w
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
Assaph Mehr
May 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roman-detectives
In the sixth novel of the Falco series, Falco travels to the exotic East. Palmyra (modern-day Syria), though to get there he travels around a bit in Judea / Jordan. It's one of those site that even though I lived right across the border, I knew that there was little chance of me ever visiting. Now, following by the destruction of ISIL, it's another ancient treasure lost to human folly. I'm glad for books such as these, that bring the love of the ancient world back to modern readers - one can sti ...more
"The Spook who spoke" the first version of "Hamlet".
Our detective hero Marcus Dido Falco becomes a playwright for a theater troop in the desert towns on the eastern edge of the Roman empire.

Without leaving your comfortable armchair you can experience;

Rome - city of emperors,
who wishes to annex the cities of the Near East,
who are home to scorpions and culture starved towns folk,
who charge exorbitant custom fees to itinerant players,
who harbor a killer,
who will kill again,
who is being traced by o
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.
Dec 13, 2008 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.)
Liesl de Swardt
Another good Falco novel. I feel the books just keeping getting better and better.
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun romp of a investigator for the Roman Emperor getting entangled with a group of actors in the Middle East. He's found a dead body, and the killers must be within the acting troupe.

Fair amount of humor, lots of nice historical bits, reasonably well drawn characters. I've read others by this author, and enjoy them.
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
Mar 07, 2013 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
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
Jul 12, 2012 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
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
Aug 29, 2011 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
Oct 06, 2012 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.
John Frankham
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-detective
The sixth in this well-written, amusing, and informative, series, this time based in Syria.

The GR blurb:

'It's AD 72 Rome, and Emperor Vesparian refuses to elevate sometime sleuth Marcus Didius Falco to the middle rank. Yet hope springs eternal, so when Vespasian's chief spy offers Falco an assignment in the East, he jumps at the chance. But his new assignment soon becomes a nightmare when he finds the corpse of a Roman playwright in a sacred pool. To ferret out the murderer, Falco joins the trav
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.
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rome
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.
Dennis Fischman
The characters continue to enchant, but the history and scenery are more ponderous in this, I’m not sure the clues really lead to the solution.
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
Jul 16, 2015 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
'Last Act in Palmyra' is a very solid entry in the Marcus Didius Falco series of ancient Roman detective novels written by Lindsey Davis. Davis has certainly hit her stride with Falco as a character and the genre she is writing in, and whilst it is not a great departure in terms of prose, character and plot from preceding entries, it still entertains with its unique setting within the ancient near east of the 1st century AD, with its parallel attention to ancient drama and acting. Admittedly the ...more
Aug 31, 2011 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
Simon Binning
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 10, 2011 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
Appearing in his sixth adventure. Falco was denied a promised promotion into the upper class by the emperor Vespasian after his last escapade (in Poseidon's Gold), a promotion required for him to marry his patrician Helena Justina. To get out of town with Helena, he takes on a job for one of the emperor's less trustworthy underlings, heading for Syria to do a little snooping; at the same time he's also on the lookout for a runaway girl who may have been kidnapped by a Syrian. While sightseeing, ...more
Rosanne Lortz
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Last Act in Palmyra, Marcus undertakes an Imperial assignment to the wilds of Syria with orders to reports back on the political climate there. While touring the desert towns with Helena, Marcus discovers the murdered body of a member of an acting troupe. Determined to bring the killer to justice, Marcus takes the dead man’s job of adapting and updating old Greek plays for modern day (A.D. 72) performances), and takes the opportunity of sizing up all the actors’ motives for murder along the w ...more
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another adventure of Marcus Didius Falco, a somewhat disreputable first century Roman private eye. Accompanied by his smart, high-class girl friend, Helena, he travels with a dysfunctional theatrical troupe through the middle east (Nabatea, Syria, etc.), while solving a couple murders. This story, like the other mysteries, works fine as a mystery, but are particularly amusing in showing the relationship between Marcus and Helena, and also with the other curious and outrageous characters ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other-fiction
Another detective noir story set in the ancient Roman world. This time we Falco and Helena go east to the edge of the empire and just a bit further. They come across a murder in Petra (in modern Jordan) and after reporting it to the locals are kick out of town. On their way out of town they meet up with a theater troupe to which the murdered man belonged. Falco takes a job as a playwright with the troupe as he tries to find the murder as well as pursues another commision to find a missing water ...more
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I continue through this series I become more and more hooked on it! This episode actually started slowly for me as Falco and Helena Justina have journeyed so the Middle East supposedly to track down a musician who has left Rome and is wanted back. Immediately finding a dead body Falco is of course sucked into the mystery and he and Helena become part of a traveling drama group. As usual, we learn of Roman life 2000 years ago as well as expanding my geographical knowledge and of course, trave ...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

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)