cover image The Grove of the Caesars

The Grove of the Caesars

Lindsey Davis. Minotaur, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-24156-6

Set in Rome in 89 CE, Davis’s engrossing eighth mystery featuring private investigator Flavia Albia (after 2019’s A Capitol Death) finds Flavia in charge of her husband Tiberius’s construction business while he’s away dealing with a family illness. As part of her job, Flavia visits gardens bequeathed to the people of Rome by Julius Caesar, to check on the progress of a contract to dismantle a small grotto, where workers have unearthed some old scrolls, a find that may have some financial value. But Flavia’s look into whether the writings are legitimate is put aside after the grisly discovery of the nude, strangled body of Victoria Teria, who disappeared during a birthday celebration held for her husband, Cluventius, in the gardens a short time before. Cluventius’s subsequent doubts about the official inquiry’s effectiveness lead him to hire Flavia to find the murderer, who she learns has been preying on women in the gardens for years. The author’s trademark dry wit leavens the gruesomeness of the central plot. Davis convincingly sets a hunt for a serial killer in ancient Rome. (July)