It is the Roman holiday of Saturnalia. The days are short, the nights are for wild parties. A general has captured a famous enemy of Rome and brings her home to adorn his triumph as a ritual sacrifice. The logistics go wrong: she acquires a mystery illness-then a young man is horrendously murdered and she escapes from house arrest. Marcus Didius Falco is pitted against his old rival, the chief spy Anacrites, in a race to find the fugitive before her presence angers the public and makes the government look stupid. Falco has other priorities, for Helena's brother Justinus has also vanished, perhaps fatefully involved once more with the great lost love of his youth. Against the riotous backdrop of the season of misrule, the search seems impossible-and only Falco appears to notice that some dark agency is bringing death to the city streets.
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by Lindsey Davis
"The bacchanalian festival of Saturnalia in ancient Rome provides the context for this mystery featuring the capable plebian sleuth Marcus Didius Falco. Several calamitous events precipitate Falco's latest investigation, starting with the escape of a beautiful barbarian priestess from house arrest and the beheading of a young man. With Falco's extended family and in-laws providing comic interludes, the mystery becomes more convoluted as our hero delves further into the clues. Christian Rodska manages a multitude of characters, developing his centurions, slaves, beggars, and ladies-in- waiting with distinction and contrast. He conveys the various social classes with ease and does a particularly competent job of projecting the ironic tone the story often demands. M.H.N. (c) AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine"
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