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David Wishart

Headline £18.99hbk

Reviewed by Ayo Onatade

It is a shame that David Wishart’s Roman mystery series does not get as much recognition as they deserve. For some they may not be on the same level as Lindsay Davis and Steven Saylor (two of my all time favourite writers) but this does not mean that they should not get more exposure. The only other authors, apart from these three, whose books are set in the Roman period that I consistently try to read are those by John Maddox Roberts and the jointly written books by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer.

In Vote for Murder Marcus Corvinus is on holiday with his wife visiting his stepdaughter Marilla (who has this affinity with animals) in the Alban Hills. With nothing much to do apart from regularly and enthusiastically visiting the local wine shop and taking a vague interest in the upcoming consul’s elections, Marcus is pleased to have the opportunity to investigate when one of the two candidates is murdered rather brutally. The most obvious suspect is the rival candidate, but things are not so cut and dried. Marcus is sure that there is a political reason for the murder but the more he digs the less sure he is that he has the right suspect. On top of this he accepts a very unusual wager, which he must deal with as well.

Marcus Corvinus comes across as a wisecracking Roman Marlowe who does not take himself, let alone life that seriously. I love the sharp wit of his wife, Perilla and the fact that he is not able to take her for granted. The best way to enjoy these books is to read them in strict order. That way you get the feel of the characters and see how the relationships have progressed. Marcus Corvinus is no Falco and should not be mistaken for him in a different guise. Apart from anything else, they are on different levels in society. They also both have totally different attitudes towards life. At the beginning of this series I did not like Corvinus one bit. He came across as a childish, spoilt Roman who preferred to find a good wine shop and spend his time drinking. I was sorely tempted not to read the next book. However, I am glad that I changed my mind. As the series has progressed he has matured and nowadays tends not to think only of himself, hence the reason why he has a stepdaughter. There is no way that Marcus Corvinus will replace Falco and there is no reason why he should, but this series has certainly changed in my opinion for the better since I first started reading them.

My only problem with this series is some of the words that Corvinus uses. As a member of the Patrician class and a "purple striper" as well, I am surprised at some of the coarse language he uses. Maybe I am being a bit picky, but I would not thought that he would know half the street slang that he comes out with, or maybe he has being hanging around with the wrong crowd! However, please do not let my gripe deter you from giving this series a try. They are certainly worth it.