cover image A Comedy of Terrors: A Flavia Albia Novel

A Comedy of Terrors: A Flavia Albia Novel

Lindsey Davis. Minotaur, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-24154-2

Davis’s strong ninth mystery set in ancient Rome starring private informer Flavia Albia (after 2020’s The Grove of the Caesars) finds Flavia’s husband, Tiberius Manlius, a magistrate in charge of the ancient Roman equivalent of consumer protection, drawn into his own inquiry. Nuts being sold in honor of the Saturnalia festival have made several Romans sick. Tiberius’s assistant believes that organized criminals, seeking to eliminate competition by sabotaging rivals in the nut trade, are responsible. Soon after Tiberius begins to investigate, the severed head of their pet sheep is left on their doorstep. With characteristic humorous disdain, Flavia takes the threat in stride (“Criminals can be very blinkered. They do not grasp that a householder and his wife have neither time nor energy to respond to stupid gestures”). After she teams up with Tiberius, they uncover a wide pattern of racketeering that includes murder, public corruption, extortion, and tax fraud. Davis convincingly depicts first-century mobsters, an aspect of ancient Roman criminality that’s been underutilized by authors writing about this period. This series remains as fresh as ever. (July)