ONE VIRGIN TOO MANY by Lindsey Davis (see her website)
A MARCUS DIDIUS FALCO MYSTERY
The Mysterious Press, 1999/2000
Marcus Didius Falco is ready to bask in his emergence into Roman Imperial middle class with his new profession as Procurator of Poultry for the Senate and People of Rome. Unfortunately, a young girl tells him she is in danger from her family and his brother-in-law stumbles over a corpse. An experienced Informer, Falco springs into action--when the Sacred Geese do not otherwise require his attention.
One of the Vestal Virgins has completed her thirty year term and it is time for Rome to choose another. Traditionally, the role is filled by lot and Roman girls from all walks of life are anxious to be selected. Vestal Virgins have power that is rarely available to women. Falco soon picks up a hint that the lottery may be fixed. Gaia Laelia is the odds-on favorite. She is also the girl who claims someone in her family intends to kill her. As Falco investigates, he discovers that the entire family is at least somewhat crazy. When Gaia disappears and her family appears to do nothing, Falco goes to the Emperor for permission to investigate. Of course investigating ancient priestly families and Vestal Virgins can be unhealthy to say the least.
In ONE VIRGIN TOO MANY, Lindsey Davis (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Lindsey Davis) gives an intriguing view into the religion and society of early Imperial Rome. The conservative patricians still play a role in placating the many gods of Rome, using every opportunity to pretend at the power that their ancestors held, but that are now gathered into the grip of Vespasian, Emperor and Pontiff Maximus. Falco maneuvers through the social nightmares helped, at times, by his Senate-class wife Helena.
Fans of history will enjoy this detailed depiction of a Rome caught up in its own importance, oblivious to things beyond its walls, and beset with mysteries that must be investigated but which simply cannot be exposed to plebeian eyesight. Falco and Helena are intriguing characters although Falco seems to carry his habitual distrust a little too far. Perhaps as a natural result of the historical nature of the story, it is difficult for the reader to fully commit, emotionally, to the story.
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