cover image Venus in Copper

Venus in Copper

Lindsey Davis. Crown Publishers, $19 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-58477-4

Ave Marcus Didius Falco! Once again Imperial Rome's wisecracking private investigator splendidly incarnates his time and placeas he uncovers a real estate development scam that proves the slum landlord is a long-established species. Fans of Silver Pigs and Shadows in Bronze will happily find Falco still sparring and making up with Helena Justina, the divorced daughter of a senator, carousing with his friend Petronius, captain of the Aventine Watch, obstructing his arch-enemy Anacrites, the Emperor Vespasian's chief spy, and trying to keep his mother and sisters at a comfortable distance. Here Falco is hired by two of the Hortensii, a group of freed slaves who have parlayed the legacy of their former owner into a fortune (which they display to vulgar excess), to investigate the thrice-widowed fiancee of one of their members. While Falco tries to prove that Severina Zotica has murdered her previous husbands, her betrothed is poisoned at a dinner with a notoriously unscrupulous developer and the detective must dig for other motives. Arson, evictions, skyrocketing rents, layered mortgage deals, another murder, near death for Helena and a brutal beating for himself spur Falco to ferret out the truth about the Hortensii and Severina. Period details, humor and Falco's modern sensibility add up to another sterling performance from Davis. (Apr.)