cover image Time to Depart

Time to Depart

Lindsey Davis. Warner Books, $23 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-626-4

Fresh from Last Act in Palmyra, Marcus Didius Falco, that most modern of ancient Romans, takes on organized crime in this latest installment of Davis's impeccably executed series. Falco has a job everyone loves to hate: he's the Emperor Vespasian's informer, or private detective--and he does his work well. This time, he's up against Balbinus Pius, perhaps the original John Gotti. Balbinus has finally been convicted of a capital crime, but, in traditional Roman style, he's been given a chance to flee before his scheduled execution. The power vacuum created by his departure seems to have sucked up every miscreant in Rome: markets are plundered, children are kidnapped, centurions are murdered. While Falco sets out to determine whether the crime wave is the work of a new kingpin or a herd of small-time operators, his private life is also in a bit of a spin. Companion Helena, a senator's daughter whom Falco is forbidden by law to marry because of their differing rank, is pregnant. And he's also pitted against his old army buddy and best friend, Petronius, captain of the fourth cohort of the Aventine Watch, in a corruption investigation. The tale gets a bit bumpy, as Davis, compensating for a slightly subpar mystery plot, tosses in lots of action scenes and personal turmoil. But Falco remains as delightfully irreverent and insightful as ever; and Davis, as usual, brings the time to life while handling the eternals--worry, danger, love and in-laws--just as deftly. (Jan.)