Mysterious Press, Sept 2004, 24.95, 332 pp.
In 76 AD Rome anyone who has a country home goes there to get away from the summer in the city. The gossip columnist of the state run Daily Gazette is missing. Dicclep, who goes under the pseudonym of Infamia told people he was working while visiting his aunt in Ostia, but when he doesn't sent copy back, his bosses hire informer (private investigator) Marcus Didius Falco to find him. Falco discovers that the aunt died last year and Diccles rented a shabby room near the port. Among his belongings he finds tablets with writing on them and the name Damagoras, who might be a pirate.
When Falco confronts Damagoras, the wily wealthy foreigner admits knowing the columnist and says he was going to write a book about the seaman's adventures. Although Falco doesn't believe the man is not a former pirate, he finds that their definitely are pirates are working in Ostia, kidnapping young women and demanding a ransom from their wealthy fathers. When the pirates realize the interest Falco and the authorities are taking in their lucrative kidnapping business, they decide to kill him.
It is always fun to read a new Marcus Didius Falco mystery and this novel is no exception. While trying to solve the case, Falco has to deal with his children, his wife, “his wife's family” and his own eccentric relatives who providing comic relative to a very complex storyline. Lindsey Davis makes the reader feel as if they have time traveled back to Ancient Rome because her descriptions of day to day living are so vivid and visual. This is an exciting historical mystery that doesn't glamorize Rome but shows it as it really was warts and all.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner