cover image Pandora’s Boy

Pandora’s Boy

Lindsey Davis. Minotaur, $26.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-250-15268-8

In Davis’s solid sixth novel set in ancient Rome and featuring informer Flavia Alba (after 2017’s The Third Nero), her latest case comes from an unusual source: Laia Gratiana, the rich, snooty ex-wife of Flavia’s new husband, Manlius Faustus. An adolescent girl, Clodia Volumnia, has been found dead in her bed, and her parents are at odds over the cause. Her father, a mediator, believes that Clodia was poisoned by a love potion that his mother-in-law procured from Pandora, an herbalist suspected of witchcraft. But Clodia’s mother blames her husband for nixing a romance, leading Clodia to die of a broken heart. Though she loathes Laia, Flavia agrees to investigate, even as she must deal with her husband’s baffling disappearance. Her digging, which steps on some powerful toes, reminds her of Rome’s dirty underbelly: “Among the Imperial monuments, the big houses of reclusive tycoons, the memories of long-gone demagogues and colonial adventurers lurked every kind of corruption.” Davis’s close attention to detail, such as a reference to Emperor Domitian’s proscription against sidewalk cafés, makes the past vivid. (July)