Review of A BODY IN THE BATHHOUSE by Lindsey Davis (see her website)
A MARCUS DIDIUS FALCO MYSTERY NOVEL
Warner Books, September 2002
It's been a tough time for Roman informant Falco. First he and his father discover a decomposing body buried under the tiles of his bathhouse. Second, his chief rival begins stalking his sister. Third, Emperor Vespasian wants him to go to Britain to sort out a building project gone bad. Finally, Falco's been asked to find work for his wife's overly energetic but highly impractical brothers. When the chief murder suspects turn up missing, Falco decides to go where the biggest building project is located--Britain--even though he hates that dreary island.
Britain is every bit as dreary as Falco remembers from his days in the military, and it's still a sleepy province far from the civilization of Rome. But Vespasian wants to build a fancy palace for one of the few local kings who supported Rome during a recent rebellion--and he doesn't want to have to pay too much. Falco finds the building crews at war with one another, and nasty hints that the corruption goes even deeper than is usual. Unfortunately, those who benefit from the graft want to keep things just the way they are. It's up to Falco to sort out the problems without creating a diplomatic crisis for his Emperor. Fortunately, Falco's brothers-in-law turn out to be hard-working, if impractical, and his wife, Helena remains a pillar of strength. Which is lucky when the body count really starts to mount.
Author Lindsey Davis (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels Lindsey Davis) delivers an exciting and amusing tale of mystery and history. Falco is a richly detailed character with a lot going on in his life and a lot of constraints that keep him from just throwing out all the scoundrels and starting over. Davis weaves together the multiple mysteries in the novel into a complete whole, gives an intriguing glimpse into what Rome and its provinces might have been like when Rome really did rule the world, and does it with a light tough that keeps the pages turning.
A BODY IN THE BATHHOUSE is a fine and rewarding mystery.
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