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on 12 June 2010
Having read all of the "Falco" novels,i was wondering which new worlds MDF could conquer.Lindsey Davis has managed to find new places for her hero to go. The first chapter is absolutely devastating and serves as a real wake up call to longstanding readers who have become accustomed to a Falco who is wealthy and content. This novel takes Falco to some very dark places and we see a side to Falco that many will find unsettling. Gone are the farcical setpieces and easygoing humour which we had got used to. There is a lot of misery and fear in this book and this makes it absolutely compelling. Many of the darker aspects of MDF's character have been alluded to in earlier novels so real afficionados will not be totally surprised. The character lived in an era where it was really was "dog eat dog" so should we be surprised that when it really matters, MDF comes out fighting and can be utterly ruthless? This novel is one that should not be missed.
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on 15 July 2010
Opens with an unexpected shock - two in fact - and finishes with another which I hadn't anticipated. Understandable solution for MDF and Petronius, but nevertheless uncomfortable - perhaps because from a reader's point of view Lindsey Davis succeeded in creating a villain with a few redeeming sympathetic qualities.
But a good read, lacking the predictability of previous books and you feel MDF has finally grown fully into his head of family role, rather than joking about it.
As a newcomer to Falco I've been fortunate enough to be able to sit and read the whole lot in one go, and now as I return from ancient Rome to the modern day I feel a little lost. I really do hope there will be more Falco books in the future, but if they don't happen this would be as good a finale as any.
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The estimable Roman PI, Marcus Didius Falco, returns to home ground in First Century Rome to face some personal tragedies and to confront, once again, his worst enemy--Emperor Vespasian's Chief Spy, Anacrites. Early in this new story (number 20 in the series) by Lindsay Davis, Falco loses two family members. One of these tragedies changes his financial fortunes radically for the better and suggests a rise in future social and professional status as well. The other is closer to home and combines with a second family setback that impacts his adopted daughter, Albia. Into this troubled context comes a welcome assignment from the office of the Emperor that sets Falco and long-time friend, Longus Petronius, on the trail of a gang of murderous thugs working out of the Pontine Marshes in the far suburbs of Rome. The criminals in question have imperial protection of some kind that keeps the resolution of the case out of reach until the last page of the book.

This is one of author Davis' better episodes in the Falco series. As always, there is a good mix of family issues, interesting secondary characters and mystery plot. "Nemesis" also shares, with other books in the series, the engaging examination of every day life in ancient Rome, with its characters going about their lives in much the same way as do subjects in contemporary mystery stories. So, a good balance of characters and plot that rarely wanders far from credibility.

Good read. Recommended.
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on 10 June 2010
I disagree with the last 2 reviews, yes Falco has become darker - but not disappointing. I would have felt more disappointed if he had ignored the threats in his usual good natured way. Ancient Rome was dark and violent, not a happy, bumbling place. I feel this book is realistic in the way Falco and Petro react to the threat to their family. Another fantastic book Ms Davies, roll on Falco 21!!
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Family has always been a big problem in Lindsay Davis' books -- family will get you into trouble, but you help them even if they make your skin crawl. And in Davis' twentieth ancient Roman murder-mystery, family trouble catapults our favorite Roman informer into even more trouble in the less pleasant, healthy parts of Rome -- and the big problem is the sudden "dark" actions he takes. See below for spoileriffic details.

Death has visited Falco's family: his son dies just after birth, and on the same day he learns that his father has just died. Unsurprisingly, his dad left Falco the bulk of his considerable estate and his sleazy business -- and an ex-lover, Thalia, who claims to be pregnant with his baby (which, if it's male, will halve his inheritance). To make matters worse, Helena's brother returns home, newly married to a grasping Athenian woman.

It makes most families look positively peaceful, doesn't it? And that's before the MURDERS start.

While dealing with dear dad's estate, Falco discovers that the Pontine Marshes are not just yucky, but deadly -- citizens are vanishing and being found dead in Rome. Apparently it's connected to the Claudii, a strange family said to have imperial protection. As more bodies pop up in Rome, Falco and Petronius must unearth a nasty collection of facts -- which may be connected to someone they know.

Lindsey Davis has a rare writing knack -- she can write historical mysteries without spending the whole book constantly going, "Look at all my cool research! Check out all the uninteresting details I dug up to give the book an authentic feel!" as many such writers do. It's full of the flavour of ancient Rome -- the flies, the squalor, the sweat, and the faint scent of corruption when a great civilization goes downhill.

And as you'd expect from a book named after the goddess of divine retribution, there's a dark edge to this story -- sudden deaths, inheritance, plague-swamps and a mysterious half-hidden family. While Davis still weaves in some funny moments ("If this is the same ox, he's a sex maniac. I'm not driving him!"), "Nemesis" is undoubtedly a darker, grimmer story than the ones before it.

The big problem is the characterization. For the first two-thirds of the book, Davis smoothly explores Falco and Helena's shared grief, gentle humor and their fierce mutual love for their family -- especially since Anacrites is sniffing around Albia, and Albia is having a meltdown because of her crush getting married.

Then, without warning, Falco tortures a man, and it puts a nasty strain on his marriage. It feels like Davis made a stab at making things "darker" -- but it doesn't feel consistent for a man who always had such principles, and he doesn't seem in any way bothered by it. Fortunately, that part ends soon and everything shifts back to normal.

Winged "Nemesis" attacks the people around Falco in Lindsey Davis' twentieth novel. It's well-written, nicely dark and witty, but the "torture" part temporarily derails both Falco and the story.
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on 19 June 2012
This is a Marcus Didius Falco novel for the devotee and I am certain Lindsay Davis has written it as such. I say that because I now get more pleasure from the goings-on in Falco's family and friends, and enemies, than the plot. That's not to say this plot is not up to the mark. Here we have Falco in search of a particularly sadistic killer who seems to be beyond the law, or at least has cast himself as such, maybe even with protection from above. It becomes a tricky situation for Falco, when is it anything else, and as ever his own personal safety and that of his family is threatened.

But aside from that, Davis has created a wonderful cast of characters, broad and deep, and has us in the streets and hills of ancient Rome when at its height, exploring the houses of the rich as well as the hovels of the very poorest. Falco's adopted daughter, Albia, is fast growing into a delightful and incisive teenage handful and proves a terrific adjunct to Helena's steadfast matriarchal role. As you can see, a certain familiarity with the background is required otherwise this will come across as a somewhat bland and tedious affair, whilst armed with the history of Ancrites and Petronius and the Camilli and Pa and Ma one can simply sink back in to the cut and thrust of the never-a-dull-moment life in the Falco household. There is much to enjoy here and Davis has managed to inject a new found twist to Falco's future fortunes. Definitely a novel for putting a smile on your face.
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on 25 July 2010
This new book has a strong beginning with real surprises, whilst you're adjusting to these the plot races along, the ending leaves you thinking... did that really happen, should I just re-read those few pages? I thought it's by far the best one for many years.
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on 26 September 2012
I've read all of the Falco books so far, and to be fair, the quality has always been a little variable. The two things they all have in common though, is Falco's personal progress from slum-dwelling, single man of ill-repute to relatively wealthy, happily married father; and the fact that even the darker novels aren't *very* dark - or at least there's a reasonable amount of humour to leaven the darker elements.

This book is rather different. The first chapter is shocking from the start, and keeps layering on the darkness. By the end of the first chapter, long-time readers will be taking a deep breath before going further. The dark thread continues, from Falco's personal difficulties, to the crimes and people he's investigating, to his personal interactions.

For all that I think it's a better book than Alexandria (the previous Falco novel); more threads weaving together, more intensity, more drama, more emotion - and much more challenging to the reader (especially those of us who've been with Falco from the start)

defnitely looking forward to the next one.
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on 7 July 2011
Normally a Falco book will accompany me on summer holiday and that's why I bought "Nemesis"; but a few things - the blurb on the back, the title and the events of the first chapter or so - read on the train - made me speculate, was this the end of the line for Falco? As I've come to like the guy over the last 20 books I suspected that if it was a finit for Falco, I'd be a bit glum. So I read it without further delay(and bought "Wounds of Honour" to fill the gap...); well, one pounding good read and yes, a distinctly dark turn in the career of a previously wisecracking character. In fact, it was a welcome dark turn as I often found (like some other reviews)the foreign adventures a bit slow or at worst fanciful. I'd call this a reboot of Falco - just as Casino Royale rebooted Bond - grittier and with a fairly nasty undercurrent. Frankly, I expected a higher body count in the Falco Faction given the air of menace that lurks throughout.

A few comments have been made about the torture and Helena's attitude. One thing to remember, if I remember correctly that is -Falco's job in the army was a speculator - scouting and intelligence; so, it's a fair bet that this wasn't the first time he used "enhanced interogation". Bluntly, given what went down in Britain during his tour of duty, Falco's hands are probably very dirty already. As for Helena's attitude, well she may not have liked what was going on but may also have been putting strategic distance between her, the children and the actions of Falco and Petro. Falco, Petro, Maia, Helena, all of them (and Helena's brothers) seem by the end to be ready to go to war against, ah the bad guys. It's like the scene in "Godfather" when the Corleones are discussing "going to the mattresses". This is Rome - Helena's family dodged the knife under Nero so she knows the score.

To conclude my ramblings, I loved this book - it was grittier and uglier and yet showed Falco trying to keep to the light side of the street. As to the future, I thought this was the end but it wasnt, roll on more - set in Rome and just as edgy. And personally, if I were Falco I'd worry about Domitian, exile is the best to hope for from him.
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on 10 May 2011
"Nemesis" opens with Marcus Didius Falco facing both family tragedy and a major change in his life. It proceeds through the hunt for a gang of sadistic serial killers, dangerous politics, further family and emotional bruises, and a climate of fear and suspicion, to an outcome from the younger Falco would have shrunk. In the course of this we see Marcus has not only matured as a man, father, and operative, but has hardened in a way we may not entirely approve of. This is understandable, perhaps even desirable: he is older, he has growing responsibilities, his career has developed, and it would be unconvincing and probably tedious were he to remain the talented but rather immature and sometimes obtuse character of his younger days. It was a brutal age and Rome was not a nice place. And it lends a certain frisson to our anticipation of what may happen in future novels.

The title is appropriate and sinister in what it promises. Of late people have tended to use the word "nemesis" as if it means "enemy" or even just "opponent", thus robbing it of its real threat. In classical times nemesis was the agent (whether as a person or something intangible) of a person's destruction. It was sent by the gods, but the victim brought it on himself through arrogance or other sins. It was unpleasant and terminal.

In this book we see, ultimately, who is the object of nemesis and who act as her agents. But we are not dealing with simple tale of goodies and baddies, and one suspects that what happens will have implications for the future.
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