cover image A Dying Light in Corduba

A Dying Light in Corduba

Lindsey Davis. Warner Books, $22.5 (428pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-664-6

In his latest engrossing case (following A Time to Depart, 1997), ancient Rome's preeminent sleuth, Marcus Didius Falco, explores political skulduggery that has a decidedly modern ring. After Chief Spy Anacrites is attacked and left for dead on the same night one of his agents is killed, Falco must untangle a knot of patrician Roman politics that winds from palace to province and encompasses economic malfeasance that might reach even to the Emperor. Under the aegis of Vespasian's Chief Clerk Laeta, Falco connects the assassins to the Society of Olive Oil Producers of Baetica. Tracing the group to Spain, Falco uncovers a plot with roots in Rome to form a cartel. The villains seem evident early, but the labyrinthine means Falco must employ to thwart them keep readers absorbed. As engaging and wryly insouciant as ever, Falco holds to his tested methodology of stirring up trouble to see what happens, while this time worrying about Helena Justina, his pregnant lover. The moments of high humor--including a scrimmage among a dog, a chicken and an ex-gladiator--are tempered by a sense that this is the beginning of the end for Rome and that Falco is doing all that one man can to hold off the night. Davis delivers another fast-moving narrative that makes ancient Rome feel as real as the streets of New York or L.A. (Jan.)