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Flavia Albia is the adopted daughter of a famous investigating family. In defiance of tradition, she lives alone on the colourful Aventine Hill, and battles out a solo career in a male-dominated world. As a woman and an outsider, Albia has special insight into the best, and worst, of life in ancient Rome.

A female client dies in mysterious circumstances. Albia investigates and discovers there have been many other strange deaths all over the city, yet she is warned off by the authorities. The vigils are incompetent. The local magistrate is otherwise engaged, organising the Games of Ceres, notorious for its ancient fox-burning ritual. Even Albia herself is preoccupied with a new love affair: Andronicus, an attractive archivist, offers all that a love-starved young widow can want, even though she knows better than to take him home to meet the parents...

As the festival progresses, her neighbourhood descends into mayhem and becomes the heartless killer's territory. While Albia and her allies search for him, he stalks them through familiar byways and brings murder ever closer to hom


3.0 Stars3.0 Stars3.0 Stars  by Anne

Rome and the single woman

This book is reasonably lighthearted and fun to read. It is a crime mystery about someone who is killing people, seemingly randomly, in the streets. Our heroine Flavia Albia becomes involved and conducts her own investigation whilst arguing with the authorities and preserving her reputation in a grubby world – she is, of course, a feminist in a deeply oppressive time. The setting of Rome seems well done to me. I got a real feel for the crowds, the activities, the noises and even the smells. Although Flavia Albia is somewhat unusual for the period we do get an understanding of the cultural norms and expectations of the time.

The story is well enough plotted and proceeds quickly although I have to say that the identity of the criminal is quite obvious to the experienced reader of this type of novel. The story is told with a wry sense of humour and an understanding of the complexities of human beings, and their actions and motivations.

Unfortunately, the characterisation suffers quite a lot in comparison with the Falco novels by the same author. I never really got a sense of who Albia was despite the fact that she is the narrator of the story and Marco Didius Falco's adopted daughter. I knew what she did and on occasions how events made her feel but it all seemed a bit superficial. Whereas Falco was a hard bitten, ex-military man with a complex family, and a habit of falling for and believing in inappropriate women, I just don’t know what Albia was like. She talks in the narration of the problems on the streets on Rome for single women, including the possibility of being tortured by the vigiles or raped by the Pretorian Guard but she doesn’t act in any way to minimise these risks and when they look likely she doesn’t seem to be afraid or to act any differently. The only real emotions in the story related to her relationship with the wild foxes of the city.

I can’t complain about this book, as it is a good enough read but it is nothing special and it doesn’t encourage me to purchase others in the series.

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