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See Delphi and Die Mass Market Paperback – May 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
In Davis's engaging 17th ancient Roman historical to feature "informer" Marcus Didius Falco (after 2004's Scandal Takes a Holiday), Falco takes his deductive powers to Greece, where two young women tourists have died under mysterious circumstances. Accompanied by a large entourage, including his independent and sharp-witted wife, Helena, Falco soon finds that one tour, promoted by the shady Seven Sights Travel outfit, has a suspiciously high mortality rate. The long trail of corpses Falco uncovers puts the sleuth in danger of running out of suspects. While the way Falco unmasks the killer may be less than ingenious, the author's vivid picture of life in A.D. 76 and the sparkling characterizations, particularly the amusing byplay between Falco and Helena, will satisfy most readers. For those new to this popular series, which has a new publisher, Davis provides a short introduction to Falco and his world. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* If Sam Spade traveled back in time to A.D. 76, he'd be Marcus Didius Falco, the Roman sleuth at the center of Davis' mordant series. In the seventeenth outing, Marcus, who tackles crime on behalf of the emperor (and with the help of his tart-tongued wife, Helena), casts his cynical gaze on the case of two women who met their demise on tours of Olympia, Greece. Both women perished during excursions sponsored by Seven Sights, a dubious travel agency whose slippery host dispenses a litany of lies. Marcus focuses on the more recent victim, Valeria Ventidia, who was found beaten to death with a long-jumper's hand weight. Although there's no shortage of suspects among Seven Sights' colorful clientele, Valeria's shifty, jealous husband is at the top of the list. Davis provides vibrant period detail, from majestic Greek temples and teeming Roman slums to reprehensible rulers sporting tunics trimmed with gold. Some readers of this series may have difficulty accepting the hard-boiled veneer that Davis lays over ancient Rome, but for those willing to suspend disbelief, it makes a marvelous conceit. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
This novel is true to form. A girl dies on a packaged holiday to Greece. The tour organizers say "Not our responsibility. She went off with a man after dark". The distraught father seeks Falco's help because he's angry at being brushed off. No one but him has been searching for his daughter's killer. Falco looks into the case because he's a soft hearted guy and the girl is entitled to have Roman justice do its stuff on her behalf. He starts to investigate the tour company, and discovers that the marriage of a honeymoon couple on a current tour to Greece has ended the hard way. The bride is dead and the groom is missing. He discovers that the investigations of both deaths were glossed over. Are the Roman officials in Greece covering up because publicizing the deaths as murders will scare off tourists from attending the Olympic Games? Will getting involved kill his prospects of rising in society so he can marry his patrician girlfriend? Cheesed off at all the callousness and inaction, Falco and Helena (and nephews and friends)take a trip to stalk a killer who keeps his murders in the open but himself (or herself?) out of sight.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Falco and Helena (and Albia and Nux but not the children) are on a trip to Greece. A couple of young Roman women have died under mysterious circumstances while touring with Seven Sights, the shadiest operators you would ever want to meet. Somehow Aulus has become involved, so Helena's mother wants Falco to take care of things. Everyone on the tour is a suspect.
So much for the plot -- it's not bad but it's definitely not the high point of the book. The puppet strings are just a little bit too visible. The mystery is not compelling but neither is it completely pro forma. All the evidence is hidden in plain sight, and it was possible for the reader to figure it all out just about the same time that Falco did.
However, the cynical Falco dialogue is sparkling, and the characterization of Falco and Helena and their party is first rate. Davis seems to have found her voice again with the new, respectable Falco after struggling for several books while he made the transition into the landed gentry.
"Like most students, he was not at all surprised to find six people, some of whom he had never met before, fast asleep in his room. After the briefest of pauses, Gaius feigned an apology: 'Any friend of Uncle Marcus is ... an idiot.'"
The book is full of details about the grimy and sometimes slimy side of tourism, particularly tourism in a legendary but now backwater place like Roman-era Greece. The investigation starts in Olympia, moves to Corinth, then to Delphi, and finally to Athens. Along the way Davis plays tour guide, even as she lampoons the actual tour guides Falco et al. encounter.
Even better, the book is full of odd and offbeat characters, the kind that always made the older Falco books so amusing. From Olympic champions to incompetent poets to drunken philosophers and back to bemused Romans, Falco and the reader are treated to a menagery of funny, strange, annoying, but nevertheless real people. There is none of the grim desperation that some of the darker books have had, even though there are a few tense and scary moments. Instead we see Falco moving into a successful life as a mostly respectable upper middle class family man. He still has his Aventine roots intact, but he is finally comfortable with branching out from them.
After 16 previous books it is a little too much to ask for this one to be the best yet, but it's certainly in the top half.
Each book can be read separately from the rest of the series, but ideally the reader will start at the beginning, Silver Pigs. It is important to not miss Two for the Lions, which resolves threads from earlier volumes.
The Silver Pigs (1989)
Shadows in Bronze (1990)
Venus in Copper (1991)
The Iron Hand of Mars (1992)
Poseidon's Gold (1993)
Last Act in Palmyra (1994)
Time to Depart (1995)
A Dying Light in Corduba (1996)
Three Hands in the Fountain (1997)
Two for the Lions (1998)
One Virgin Too Many (1999)
Ode to a Banker (2000)
A Body in the Bath House (2001)
The Jupiter Myth (2002)
The Accusers (2003)
Scandal Takes a Holiday (2004)
See Delphi and Die (2005)
So, with Helena and their adopted daughter Alba, plus Glaucus, a bronzed would be athlete, son of Glaucus senior, and his two nephews, Gaius and Cornelius, Marcus heads off to Greece to track down the tourist party with its murdered member.
After visting Olympia (which is portrayed as resembling the aftermath of a music festival) and surviving an attack on his life whilst digging a little too deeply by Milo of Croton, they catch up with the party at Corinth and finally get to interview the tourist group (once authorised by the wet-behind-the-ears Aquillius Macer). There is Tiberius Sertorius Niger and his wife with two children, the middle-aged Helvia, the shabby Volcasius, Indus and Marinus, two old friends, Cleonyma and Cleonymus - the latter who ends up murdered fairly shortly afterwards - Minuca and Amaranthus and finally the recently deceased Turcianus Opimus.
After a meeting with the elusive and mysterious Philomela and catching up with the unctuous Phineas they hot foot to Delphi and Lebadeia to track down the mourning Statianus and Aulus, finding the latter in Athens after Helena tries her hardest to get killed by the oracle at Lebadeia and temporarily finding the former before he is also on the receiving end of a murder.
So, our slickly written and fast paced murder mystery has multiple murders with very little common thread for Marcus and Helena to puzzle through and we get a fitting denoument when we find the aunt of the first murdered girl and end up exercising a truly Tantalan stew as a gruesome climax.
Falco is not a terribly good traveller and it would be fair to say that the best Falco novels are those set in Rome. His unavoidable accumulation of familial clutter is also weighing his sleuthing down somewhat and sending him into the spiral of mental sleuth rather than action sleuth. I'm not convinced that Davis' choice to send him down this path is generating similar quality novels of as shown in earlier mysteries but I can understand the reality behind it. As ever, Falco is an enjoyable sleuth amongst an ever-expanding genre and well worth the time and money.
Anyway, this one is definitely one of Davis' better efforts. While Falco had previously traveled outside of Rome on a number of adventures, this book is a great satire of travel tours-- both ancient and modern. I sympathized with Falco beating off guides at various historical sites and dealing with the odd assortment of people who seem to end up together in tour groups.
As for the narrator, Christian Rodska, he does a very believable Falco, a little coarse and tough, with a cynical outlook. However he is a sentimental pushover when it comes to those he loves.
If you have about 11 hours and 15 minutes of driving time (or house work time for that matter) then give this one a try.