Davis, Lindsey - 'Alexandria'
It is twenty years since Marcus Didius Falco, Imperial Rome's answer to Sam Spade, burst on the scene. His adventures have taken him to the four corners of the known (ie Roman) world and in his nineteenth novel, he and his extended family arrive as tourists in Alexandria in the year AD77.
This is a different Egypt to that described by Paul Doherty in THE SPIES OF SOBECK, although the Egyptian deity Sobe(c)k plays a part, but this being a Lindsey Davis novel, the Sobek in question here is not the famous crocodile god, but an actual (and hungry) Nile crocodile who is one of the prime exhibits in Alexandria's famous zoo.
As everyone knows, Alexandria was famous for its library and, naturally, if there's a library there has to be a body in it and, even better, in a locked room - though the solution to that particular riddle is rather cheeky to say the least!
But then, you don't read Falco mysteries for their mystery, you read them because Lindsey Davis has put together a marvellous cast and provided us with a long-running situation comedy. It just so happens that the hero is a sort of detective and the setting is the Roman Empire.
Most of this regular cast feature in ALEXANDRIA and there are a few new grotesques thrown in for good measure, but above all you get Davis' crafty eye for human relationships. She also proves sharply observant of the wiles of academia, with lovely references to university in-fighting in committee meetings and 1st Century students cunningly plagiarising their essays from the piles of ancient scrolls in the famous library!
There are also one or two instances of homage to previous Falco adventures (his time as a playwright and his infamous recipe for turbot) which might suggest that the author is rounding-off the series. There seems, however, to be no chance of that, as a 20th novel, NEMESIS, has been announced for next year, to which everyone who likes their history mysteries firmly centred on warm, fully-fleshed characters, will raise a cup of wine. (Falernian, of course.)
Read another review of ALEXANDRIA.
Mike Ripley, England
Mike Ripley is the author of the 'Angel' series and writer of a monthly Getting Away With Murder column for Shots Ezine.