It is a stiflingly hot July in Rome A.D. 89 and the campaign for the election of the new aediles of Rome is in progress. The discovery of a body rotting in a strong-box sets Flavia Albia on a course to discover who the dead man is and how he came to be in the box.
Meanwhile, Marcus Manlius Faustus is helping Sextus Vibius Marinus who is standing against six men. We find out how an election was run in those days as Albia helps Manlius Faustus to investigate the other candidates in order to discredit them in an edgy election. (Politics don’t seem to have change in 2000 years.)
As the story progresses so does her relationship with Faustus, “the only chaste man in Rome.” Will they? Won’t they?
We also learn more about Albia’s role as her father’s representative at the family auction house and about Faustus’ past. Family life in Roman life was all about honour and loyalty. People were married, divorced and remarried for advantage and those decisions were often made by the head of the family; the matriarch.
We meet lots of great characters: Roman bankers, a couple of Falco’s old friends, Faustus’ uncle Tullius and Patchy the donkey amongst them. Of course there is another corpse for Albia to investigate. There are five Julias, ‘strong ladies of Rome’ whom Albia eventually has to investigate them in order to find the truth.
The on-going relationship between Albia and Faustus is beautifully drawn. The story and plot are clever, gentle but intriguing and keep the reader guessing. Once again the reader is transported back to Ancient Rome in the masterly hands of Lindsey Davis. The sense of time and place is vivid, a guide to the Rome of the Emperor Domitian. We are ‘there’ with Albia and her friend Marcus. I look forward to the next book in this series.