cover image Last Act in Palmyra: A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery Novel

Last Act in Palmyra: A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery Novel

Lindsey Davis. Mysterious Press, $22.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-625-7

If Travis McGee traveled in time back to treacherous, civilized Rome in 72 A.D., he might be something like Marcus Didius Falco. Appearing in his sixth adventure, the resourceful, bantering court investigator, who is graced with more humor than his south Florida counterpart and who hates injustice without being a drone about it, is such a regular guy that it's easy to forget he's not speaking figuratively when he talks about the latest model of chariot. Falco was denied a promised promotion into the upper class by the emperor Vespasian after his last escapade (in Poseidon's Gold), a promotion required for him to marry his lover, the patrician Helena Justina. To get out of town with Helena, he takes on a job for one of the emperor's less trustworthy underlings, heading for Syria to do a little snooping; at the same time he's also on the lookout for a runaway girl who may have been kidnapped by a Syrian. While sightseeing, Falco and Helena discover, in a cistern, the body of a playwright who had been with an acting troupe out of Rome. For various reasons, Falco and Helena sign on with the troupe in order to find the killer, with Falco taking on the little appreciated duties of the playwright for cover. Accompanying the troupe on their travels, readers get a history lesson they may wish they had had in high school, all the while being treated to a polished narrative. (Mar.)