A Dying Light in Corduba by Lindsey Davis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Our hero, Marcus Didius Falco, informer and sometimes Imperial agent, finds himself drawn into intrigue and murder all because he accepted an invitation to dinner. Having thoroughly enjoyed himself, he discovers the next morning that two of his fellow guests had been assaulted and left for dead as they travelled home. One is dead, and the other, who just happens to be the Chief Spy of the Empire (and a sometimes employer and long-term enemy of Falco), may not survive his injuries.
And it all has to do with the supply of olive oil from one of the Spanish provinces of the Empire!
Drawn into the mystery by a combination of responsibility and imperial pressure, Falco travels to Baetica in Hispania to get to the bottom of the cause of the attacks, and the possibility of an illegal price-fixing cartel being organised to disadvantage the citizens of the Empire.
His partner, Helena Justina, herself outraged by what has happened insists on accompanying Falco, despite (or perhaps because) the imminent arrival of the first child. Heavily pregnant, Helena provides support both personal and professional, all the while growing more anxious as her time of labour approaches.
Needless to say, Falco does get to the bottom of the mystery. But not without a few interesting adventures, meeting a few intriguing characters, and the obligatory misdirection. The culprits are identified and attended to, and Falco is able to rejoin his beloved just in time to assist with the delivery of their child…with the assistance of some warmed olive oil!
Another wonderfully engaging narrative from Lindsey Davis draws together the historical setting of the rule of the emperor Vespasian with the comical first-person story-telling associated with so many ‘gumshoe detective’ novels. The juxtaposition of such a genre, well known in a 20th-century context, with the later Roman Empire, makes this novel, and its companions in the series, thoroughly enjoyable.
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