A Body in the Bath House - Lindsey Davis

I used to think that long running series were the bane of the Fantasy genre alone. I've now discovered that the crime section in the average bookshop has much fewer authors than I expected despite the large number of titles - long running series are practically the norm!

In this case, I'm glad the series is still running, I like the Roman Detective genre, and Falco is a favourite. The series has its weak points historically, and I feel that recent books, Ode to a Banker for example, have been weaker than earlier volumes, but overall, Davis is still writing enjoyable novels.

Marcus Didius Falco has finally risen to the Equites, the middle class, he's now almost respectable. Of course, he's still an informer, and rather disreputable profession. Still, his new status means that he's building a new house for his family, but on moving in he finds that there is, as you might have guessed from the title, something nasty under the tiles in the bath house... The Emperor meanwhile has problems in the provinces, with a new palace for the local King being built in Britain. Neatly, Falco's troubles with his bath-house, his nanny, the Emperor's troubles with Britain, and Falco's sister's trouble with Anacrites, chief spy, all lead to one mass outing to Britain... Falco as pater familias at last!

As soon as he lands back in his hated Britain, where he served in the legions as a young man, Falco, the man from Rome, is embroiled in a complex case involving corruption and accidents on the construction site that will be Fishbourne palace, outright murders, female assassins chasing his sister, who hates him for separating her from her children - you know, the usual! There's no point discussing the plot in detail, it only spoils a novel like this. For my money, things feel just a little too neat and tidy at the end, but overall, this marks Davis' return to form.I also think Davis' plotting has improved quite a bit over the last few books, the pacing seems much more polished.

If I was to be critical about something, it's that Davis is starting to rely a little too much on soap opera storylines for interest, with, for example, the thread about Maia's romantic life being spread over several novels now without any satisfactory resolution. On the other hand, it's exactly this complex intertwining of human relationships that gives this series much of its interest. It's a mark of the characterisation that I actually resent the author putting Falco's sister Maia, or his friend Petro, through the wringer because I like them too much!

Recommended, but just make sure to read this series in order.

Posted: Sat - August 9, 2003 at 08:55 PM