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Alexandria: (Falco 19) Paperback – 4 Feb 2010
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"A fantastic historical whodunnit" (Daily Express)
"Like visiting old friends in a familiar and endearing, if sometimes bizarre, environment. Jokes and skulduggery crowd the pages" (The Guardian)
"The story gallops along at a tremendous pace with humour and suspense dispensed in equal measure" (Daily Express)
"Another entertaining adventure" (Sunday Telegraph)
About the Author
Lindsey Davis has written over twenty historical novels, beginning with The Course of Honour. Her bestselling mystery series features laid-back First Century detective Marcus Didius Falco and his partner Helena Justina, plus friends, relations, pets and bitter enemy the Chief Spy. After an English degree at Oxford University Lindsey joined the Civil Service, but became a professional author in 1989. Her books are translated into many languages and have been dramatized on BBC Radio 4. Her many prizes include the Premio Colosseo, awarded by the Mayor of Rome ‘for enhancing the image of Rome’, the Sherlock award for Falco as Best Comic Detective and the Crimewriters’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement.
For more information, please visit www.lindseydavis.co.uk.
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I will say straightaway, that the Falco books which are set away from Rome can be a little formulaic. It can seem that the author changes the location to show off her latest research about a place or event, and this has led on occasion to the story being something of an afterthought. The same criticism can be made of this book. The story is multi-layered and quite complex, as usual. There is also a lot of detail about the city, and especially the workings of the great library.
But all that detail gets in the way of Falco and his family, which, lets face it, is why we read the books in this series. In this volume, Falco is not quite his usual self. He seems to have lost much of his humour and light touch, and Helena plays a much smaller part than usual, which is a shame.
The cast of characters is as varied as usual, but a little less rounded. There are crimes, misdemeanours and murders aplenty. The tension between Roman authorities and the old order over which they are laid is dealt with well. Indeed the very reason why Falco is investigating events is that the local officials are more than happy to have an outsider causing potential ructions, while they themselves can get on doing as little as possible.
When Falco's father suddenly appears on the scene, events gradually move a little too close to home. Add to that the appearance of Thallia, an exotic snake dancer and purveyor of circus animals, who is an old acquaintance of Falco and Helena, things start to get a bit out of hand. And far more confusing.
It's an enjoyable read as usual, but - and I hesitate to say this - there is perhaps too much going on; too many unlikely occurrences. I know that the next volume will be the last in the Falco series, and I wonder if this book has become too much of a setup for the denouement to come.
Any trip abroad for Falco and family is fraught with incident, and even though Falco thinks he’s got away from some of his more obnoxious relatives, they turn up to sponge off him again. But then, they have their uses in uncovering some of the more tortuous parts of the plot.
I enjoyed this trip to Alexandria, with the mythical library and the fabulous lighthouse. All meeting Lindsey Davis’s high standards for recreating the ancient world and bringing it to life in the hands of the master informer, Falco.
If you want a detective story whose Tec doesn't just walk down the mean streets but runs down 'm AND up them and nearly gets fed to lighthouse fires, then this is the book for you.