cover image Three Hands in the Fountain

Three Hands in the Fountain

Lindsey Davis. Warner Books, $30 (351pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-691-2

Secret-agent/sleuth Marcus Didius Falco (A Dying Light in Cordoba, etc.) returns with gusto for another case of mystery and intrigue--this time involving a serial killer--in ancient Rome. As the novel opens, Falco has just come back from a perilous mission to Baetican Spain and is ready to tackle his new role as father to his first-born daughter. But his commitment to paternal responsibilities begins to lag when he and his old friend, Petronius Longus, make a gory discovery--of a severed human hand in one of Rome's many fountains. As the inquisitive buddies do some reconnaissance work, encountering similar body parts in the Roman water supply, they learn that there is, in fact, a tradition of corpses circulating in the waterworks. Furthermore, these dead bodies often appear after public festivals. The threat of contaminated aqueducts coupled with the imminent Roman Games brings Falco and Petro to confront the authorities on the matter. Official desire to keep the problem under wraps forces the pair to determine the killer's identity on their own, with the help of Helena (Falco's wife), Anacrites (a spy and boarder in Falco's mother's home) and other toga-wearing tipsters. Once again, Davis weaves an intricate, irreverent plot filled with wittily imagined characters. (Apr.)