Nancy McKibben's Reviews > The Ides of April

The Ides of April by Lindsey Davis
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bookshelves: historical-fiction, mystery, reviewed
Recommended for: readers who like well-done historical mysteries

The Ides of April
By Lindsey Davis

A new Marcus Didius Falco novel by Lindsey Davis! Quick, grab it off the library shelf! But what’s this? The subtitle: A Flavia Albia Mystery. What?!

Such were my emotions on discovering this novel. A faithful fan of the wisecracking Falco, detective of ancient Rome, through twenty other novels (although I’ve evidently missed the last, Nemesis), I was expecting more of the same. Instead, I find that Flavia Albia, Falco and Helena’s adopted daughter (a plot twist that I remember from an earlier book), has been married and widowed and has decided to strike out on her own in Falco’s old digs in the Surbura (which he has since purchased, now that he is a wealthy man.)

Perhaps Davis decided that Falco has grown too mature and respectable to perform any longer as a credible informer, since part of his charm was always his low upbringing and never-quite-comfortable rise to the top as the husband of the patrician Helena. So Davis has retired Falco and resorted to the younger blood of his (adopted) offspring. Although Flavia’s decision to live in her father’s old apartment building is barely credible (but necessary to plot, I think, as Davis doesn’t want her living in luxury with her dad), I was willing to read on.

The ensuing novel finds Flavia in pursuit of a clue linking a series of sudden deaths among the otherwise healthy in a certain section of Rome. Rumors whisper of a serial killer, or perhaps a copycat. The attractive archivist Andronicus offers aid of the most beguiling sort, while Tiberius, a runner for the magistrates, seems to turn up at inopportune moments, finally offering to team up with Flavia to find the truth.

So, not to give away more of the plot, events proceed as in other Davis novels, with lots of the colorful period details that readers of her novels expect and love. Since this story is told from a woman’s perspective, we have a slightly different view of the ancient world than in the previous books - Flavia at the baths, Flavia choosing jewelry and a sewing kit, Flavia sizing up available men.

It’s impossible not to compare Flavia’s adventures with those of her venerable father, who is banished so thoroughly from this volume that he does not utter a word directly (Helena does), and we hear of him only through Flavia’s mentions of visits to the family. Clearly Davis has decided that Falco needs to be put in the background to let Flavia shine.

And Flavia acquits herself well; she is a scrappy and engaging character (her orphan background makes her actions a bit more understandable) and I would certainly read another novel about her. Still, I miss her father, the scamp. I hope that once Davis becomes more comfortable with her new heroine, Falco is permitted to turn up from time to time and crack some jokes in person.
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Reading Progress

November 18, 2013 – Started Reading
November 19, 2013 – Finished Reading
November 20, 2013 – Shelved
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: mystery
November 20, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed

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