This is my second Flavia Albia mystery, having read the previous book shortly before this one, but otherwise being new to Lindsey Davis’ mysteries and not having read her infamous Didius Falco series as I’m sure many readers of this spin-off will have. Whilst I found the opener to the series, The Ides of April, solid and entertaining, I easily guessed the mystery and I felt the pacing was little off the boil. Not so in Enemies at Home.
Here the new series seems to have hit its stride. Flavia Albia’s first person narrative voice is just as sardonic and direct as ever, and her witty observations guide us through the new mystery she's facing - a newlywed couple murdered with their silverware stolen and their slaves under suspicion having fled into sanctuary. In contrast to The Ides of April, I didn't guess the whodunit in advance, though the eventual culprit was on my shortlist, I felt the reveal wasn't telegraphed ahead of time and this definitely kept the mystery boiling at a much hotter temperature. Albia felt much sharper on the case here too, whereas in The Ides of April I felt she missed obvious clues, and I appreciated her methodical yet entertaining approach. The pacing feels tighter too; the mystery gets going a lot quicker than it did in the first novel, and the reveal occurs later, leaving just the right amount of satisfactory aftermath for wrapping things up. Davis introduces an eclectic group of suspects each of whom are working their own angle and with their own objectives in mind, which thickens the plot and keeps the mystery going until close to the reveal.
Coming to this series having not read Falco, I can't make the comparisons that long-time fans of Falco will, but I have to say Albia is beginning to grow on me. It's not earth-shattering high literature, but nor is it meant to be. Enemies at Home is quietly clever, witty, funny, and kind of charming, and that is what makes it so very readable and entertaining. Definitely a good read.
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