A quick lesson in ancient Roman law.
In a nutshell:
Marcus gets caught up in a lawsuit by providing some evidence against the accused. When the convicted man commits suicide so that his family can keep all their property the accuser (who would have received all the dosh) suspects foul play and hires Marcus to find out the truth.
Language I read the book in: English
Did I like it? Yes, very much.
For people who: like Ancient Roman sleuths, courtroom dramas, Perry Mason & Matlock
Starting to read:
I didn’t remember how fun Marcus Didius Falco can be. I didn’t think the first book with him (The Silver Pigs) was so great but since then there were some books that I really really liked, like A Body in the Bathhouse, Ode to a Banker or Three hands in the Fountain. I think this is going to be one of them.
Such fun to read that people in ancient Rome were complaining about the same sorry state of affairs as we do nowadays, just a little different:
No wonder our roads are blocked with dead mules’ carcasses and the aqueducts leak.
The evidence reports from Falco to Silius and various other reports and minutes give this an official touch and court room flavour. Also it is a very practical method to skip over a lot of rather boring interrogations. It gives us the gist without going through every conversation with the last minor witness.
What is the business with the door slave? What happened two years ago? Why did the sibling not defy the will of the deceased? Why were they all excluded and Saffia put in? Metellus was found guilty of corruption, but where has all the money gone?
As you might know I have very little reading time, but I only have the book for another day. More than 190 pages left, so I am neglecting my household duties in order to finish it. I am totally obsessed with the story by now,
Towards the end:
The story has taken a turn for the worse (for our hero sleuths) and I am very curious to see how they will wriggle out of it – I am sure, they will somehow come out on top of everything.
All in all:
A very satisfying detective story and ending (and a VERY fitting title, too). It is not action filled but mainly relies on the spoken word (with the exception of a couple of fisticuffs as can be expected in Rome).
The main theme of this novel is the judiciary system in ancient Rome, its corruption and – to us – rather inexplicable “justice”. From serious accusation of blasphemy made by civilians, to corruption charges for the sake of monetary gain, to false murder charges and the resulting financial recompensation, to the torturing of slaves in order to obtain a valid statement, it is all there. Hereditary law as well as illegitimate offspring and the consequences for the child, everything you ever wanted to know (on a general level) you will find out in this story.
This is an absolutely delightful read; I need to get my hands on another Marcus Didius Falco book now.
Location: Ancient Rome around 75AD
Images from wikipedia. Marie-Claire and Diliff
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Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.