The Ides of April (Flavia Albia Series #1)

The Ides of April (Flavia Albia Series #1)

3.9 10
by Lindsey Davis
     
 

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Falco: The Next Generation––Flavia Albia has taken up her father's profession. Only, now Rome is a more dangerous, mercurial place than it was back in dear old dad's day . . .

Flavia Albia is the adopted daughter of Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina. From her mother, she learned how to blend in at all levels of society; from her father, she

Overview

Falco: The Next Generation––Flavia Albia has taken up her father's profession. Only, now Rome is a more dangerous, mercurial place than it was back in dear old dad's day . . .

Flavia Albia is the adopted daughter of Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina. From her mother, she learned how to blend in at all levels of society; from her father, she learned the tricks of their mutual professional trade. But her wits and (frequently) sharp tongue are hers alone.

Now, working as a private informer in Rome during the reign of Domitian, Flavia has taken over her father's old ramshackle digs at Fountain Court in the Surbura district, where she plies her trade with energy, determination, and the usual Falco luck. Recently hired to help investigate a fatal accident, she finds herself stuck with a truly awful person for a client and facing a well-heeled, well-connected opponent.

That is, until her client unexpectedly dies under what might be called "suspicious circumstances." While this is not a huge loss for society, it is a loss for Flavia Albia's pocket. Even worse, it's just one of a series of similar deaths for which she now finds herself under suspicion. Before things go from abysmal to worse, Flavia must sort out what is happening, and who is responsible, in Lindsey Davis' The Ides of April.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Davis (Nemesis) ingeniously breathes life into her Ancient Rome series, which has reached 20 books, by shifting the focus from Marcus Didius Falco to his adopted daughter, Flavia Albia, who follows in her father’s footsteps by becoming an investigator. Salvidia, the owner of a business that refurbishes bars, retains Flavia to avoid liability after an out-of-control company cart kills a three-year-old boy. Before Flavia can really get to work, Salvidia dies, despite having been in good health. As Flavia begins to ask questions, she’s disturbed to learn that other Romans have also dropped dead suddenly. Unsettled by her inquiries, the powers-that-be seek to avoid a panic resulting from word getting out that foul play may be involved. The solution isn’t one of Davis’s most dexterous, but the smooth transition between leads provides hope that Flavia could have as long a literary run as Marcus. (June)
From the Publisher
“Davis’ best-selling historical mysteries brim with colorful characters and rich period detail, providing readers with a vivid portrait of ancient Rome.” —Booklist on Master and God

“Lindsey Davis doesn't just bring Rome to life—she brings Rome to life better than anyone else ever has.” —Detroit Free Press on The Silver Pigs

"An irresistible package of history, mystery, and fast-moving action, all punctuated by a sense of humor that few writers can match." —The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Venus in Copper

Kirkus Reviews
A second-generation Roman sleuth who lives by her wits needs all of them to solve a string of killings that strike too close to home. In A.D. 89, during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, Flavia Albia works as an informer in the shadow of her famous father, Falco. It's a difficult job, especially for a woman. Hired by a woman named Salvidia to "apply legal pressure to some compensation-seekers," Flavia gets stiffed when her client turns up stiff, a victim of botanical poisoning. She doesn't originally suspect foul play, but when Salvidia's stepson Metellus Nepos hires her to investigate, Flavia is certainly willing to take the gig. She finds a handful of enemies of the deceased, but none quite rises to the dubious status of suspect. What she doesn't see coming is the unexpected death of Salvidia's friend and neighbor, Celendina, right after attending Salvidia's funeral ceremony. Nepos is apoplectic. Flavia visits the lazy local investigator, Titus Morellus, for his opinion, and he immediately implicates the elaborately grieving stepson. A spate of similarly suspicious deaths follows, but the victims--a toddler, a teen, an athlete, etc.--range far and wide in age and gender. There seems no conceivable pattern, unless Flavia can find one. Flavia Albia makes her debut courtesy of the author of the long-running Marcus Didius Falco series (Nemesis, 2010, etc.). This installment includes the same helpful map of the city and cast of characters and a feistier style. The whodunit unfolds slowly, but Flavia demonstrates appealing wit and grit.
Library Journal
Davis's latest mystery set in ancient Rome during the reign of Domitian centers on Flavia Alba, the adopted daughter of series sleuth Marcus Falco (Nemesis; Shadows in Bronze). Sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, Flavia investigates a series of sudden and unexplained deaths. Not only must she find a killer, but she must work as a female informant in a male-dominated society. Davis combines excellent research, expansive knowledge, and vivid writing to immerse readers in ancient Rome. The people and places of the city seem both authentic and familiar. VERDICT This series launch is a great read for mystery fans but is especially suggested for those who enjoy their crime fiction in a historical setting. There are some sexual themes and very mild violence, but nothing is explicit or inappropriate for teenagers.—Matt Schirano, Grand Canyon Univ. Lib., Phoenix

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250023698
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
06/11/2013
Series:
Flavia Albia Series , #1
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

I

 

Lucius Bassus was three years old when his mother took her eyes off him and he ran out of the house to play. They lived on the Clivus Publicius, a steep road on the Aventine Hill, where he was knocked down by a builder’s cart. The cart, which escaped its driver’s control as it sped down the slope, was owned by Metellus and Nepos, an outfit that worked from a yard on the hill. Nobody talked about Nepos; at first I thought he might be an invention for some tax fiddle.

This business was no more shady than most in Imperial Rome. It carried out refurbishments for bar owners who wanted to move up from blatantly sleazy to a pretence of hygiene. The custom was that the Metellus crew would tender for a full deep-clean and fancy renovation, promising to complete in eight weeks max. In practice, every project took two years and they skimped on the fittings. They would re-grout the marble counters, put in a new doorstep, provide a misspelt signboard and charge the earth for it. By then their clients, unable to operate in the permanent dustcloud, had lost their custom and were going under. It amazed me that other bar owners saw what happened yet still used the firm, but they did. Over the years Metellus and Nepos had done very nicely out of Roman rotgut-sellers innocently trusting them. But killing a child, in the close-knit Aventine community where we had some standards, just might be commercially stupid.

Lucius died at once from his injuries. He never stood a chance. He expired on the kerb. Inevitably, at that very moment his distraught mother came out of the house. It helped fuel local outrage.

The ramshackle cart had been overloaded. The draught oxen were both past their best. Their driver was blind drunk, no question. He denied that on principle, the principle being that Salvidia, the vinegary widow who had inherited the shopfitting business from the husband she had driven to his grave, would not pay his wages if he told the truth. There were witnesses, a large group of whom gathered in the Clivus and took an interest, but they all disappeared when a busybody produced a note tablet and started collecting names.

Once the funeral with its pathetic tiny coffin had been held, well-meaning neighbours started to suggest that the family were entitled to payment for their terrible loss. Everyone agreed they should immediately hire an informer to look into the legal aspects. If being hit on the head by a falling flower tub could be worth cash to the victim, what price a child’s life under civil law? Someone (it was rumoured to be the note tablet busybody I mentioned) even wrote up on a wall a plea for concerned citizens who had been present at the accident to come forward. It must have appeared before the first of April, because I saw it that day, the Kalends. The poster sounded official. While not actually offering payment, it implied possible advantage. As a professional, I read it with interest. I found it subtly done.

By then, I had become involved. Any investigator who was favoured by Fortune would be taken on by the heartbroken mother to negotiate compensation. This was a public-spirited task, where a reputable person could maintain a clear conscience: you look into the facts, you put those facts to the guilty party succinctly, you say, “I am a top informer, this is meat and drink to me; a toddler is dead and a jury will be weeping into their togas, but nobody wants this to go to court, do we?” The guilty cough up, and you cream off your percentage.

Not me. Fortune never favoured me and the problem with being a woman was that sometimes I could only obtain business that all the male informers had sniffed and refused. This was one of those months. I was hired by Salvidia. The owner of Metellus and Nepos wanted me to help her beat off the mother’s claim. Typical.

From what I have already said about this construction group, you will guess my employment was on a “no win, no fee” basis. Indeed, I was starting to feel its basis might amount to “win, but even then the bastards never pay up”—like so much of my work, unfortunately. After a week, I was ready to abandon the miserable project, but I had already put in quite a few hours and, besides, I never like to be defeated. The poster asking for witnesses suggested someone else felt the same way.

The wall graffiti included an address where people could make statements, so as my enquiries were stuck, I went along to see if any had done so. My line would be that as I was assisting a party in the dispute, I had the right to ask. As a female I had no rights at all in matters of law, but why let that stop me? Either way, I was hoping to plea-bargain. Anything to have this finished fast, so I could drop the case.

The address was the Temple of Ceres. It was close to my home and office, though on a far grander street than the blind alley I lived in. Anywhere would be finer than that. Fountain Court holds no attractions for the founders of fine religious buildings.

Arranging assignations at temples is common in Rome. For strangers it is neutral ground. For instance, married men find the steps of temples convenient for picking up prostitutes. The grander the temple, the lousier its hangers-on. Inured to the seamy side of our city, the public pass by without noticing. Suggesting a meet at a temple was, I presumed, simply for convenience. Thinking little of it, I went along on spec.

Only when I asked for the contact on the wall notice did I learn he was a big prawn in a purple-edged toga who belonged to an ancient order of magistrates. The Temple of Ceres was their headquarters and archive depository.

I reconsidered. Then I went home and made alterations to my appearance. I was visiting the office of men of great consequence in Rome: men of wealth and power. I did not suppose “Manlius Faustus” had chalked up graffiti on the Clivus Publicius in person, but some minion certainly did it in his name. That minion must have felt confident Faustus would enjoy throwing his weight about. By definition this magistrate was one of those menaces who drive traders wild checking market weights. I had been trained by my father to avoid such types, though in fact those over-promoted snoots don’t tangle with me. I have contacts, but no one that important.

Still, it always pays to respect the opposition. So I changed into a full-length tunic in a neutral shade, not white, not quite unbleached linen, but neat, tidy and unthreatening. It did have an embroidered neckline that suggested money, which in turn hints at a woman with influential men behind her, one who should not be too quickly or too rudely dismissed.

My earrings were plain gold rosettes. I added a row of bangles, to give me confidence. Hair pinned up. Three dabs of a discreet perfume. A large stole: the demure, respectable widow look. I really am a widow, so that part was right.

Mother had taught me how to pose as a meek matron. It was ridiculous and hypocritical, but the act now came as second nature and I could manage it without laughing.

So, feeling convinced that I was as good as them and could handle these bastards, I set off for my first encounter with the plebeian aediles.

 

Copyright © 2013 by Lindsey Davis

Meet the Author


LINDSEY DAVIS is the author of The New York Times bestselling series of historical mysteries featuring Marcus Didius Falco. She lives in London.

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The Ides of April 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
reader53CD More than 1 year ago
I love the Falco series, and I always knew Albia would make a  great centerpiece for  Davis' work. You don't have to have read the original series Davis  makes connections seamlessly for new readers, but I imagine new readers will want to back-track and start with THE SILVER PIGS!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book started slowly, with little of the snappy and witty dialogue Davis often has in the Falco series. Fans begin to wonder what happened to Falco and Helena, the heroine's parents. Not to fear! Flavia turns out to be a genuinely likeable heroine, and often stops by the family homestead for dinner and advice. Davis manages to build on the previous series in a satisfying way. The surprise twist at the end of this book makes you warm up to Flavia all the more. Can't wait for the next one!
glauver More than 1 year ago
Lindsey Davis wrote about 20 novels about first century Roman informer Marcus Didius Falco. I only read one or two. This book begins a new series about his daughter, Flavia Albia, who has followed in his sandal steps. Flavia is an interesting heroine, sort of Kinsey Milhone in Rome. I spotted the killer long before she did, but the background and characters kept me interested. I will try at least another one of the Albia adventures.
ComCop More than 1 year ago
This series is written in the style of Davis' Falco series. I loved the story and will continue to hope for more. I am a big fan of Davis and would also like to see some more Falco stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the Falco books. Like this one too with a female lead.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recently re-read Silver Pigs. It was a much more impressive beginning to a series. I think that part of the problem is the limits on what a Roman woman can do and say. Flavia Albia has to be a cerebral detective because her actions are severely limited and clues are limited in a pre-scientific society. I did not find the evidence or the red herrings particularly interesting or successful in building suspense. I think the author is still coping with those problems in developing the stories. I understand the desire to escape from all things Falco, but a little more involvement with Flavia's family would, I think, have helped this introduction to a new central character. I was unable to develop a strong interest in Flavia or her situation, in sharp contrast to Falco in Silver Pigs. This book is worth reading if you are a fan of the author, but I hope the next book in the series is better at engaging the reader's interest in the central character.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just_Me70 More than 1 year ago
When I discovered the Falco series my brother and I both fell in love with the tough-talking, disillusioned Philip Marlow of the Roman world.  We called him our favorite "gumsandal".  When Ms. Davis quit writing Falco stories we were saddened.  I was delighted to see The Ides of April, but skeptical about a young woman, even one as seasoned as Flavia Alba, being able to step into Falco's place in my heart.  I bought the book for Nook, just to test the waters and now I am purchasing it in hardback for my treasured Lindsey Davis collection. I guess that tells you that I really enjoyed the book.  I enjoyed the character development of Flavia Alba and her companions.  My misgivings about how a Roman woman could handle the "tough stuff" were laid to rest and, as always, her characters come across with personality and charm.  I gave this 4 stars, I was tempted to give 5, I liked the  book that well, but I want to see the next in the series and leave room for development. I have every faith in Ms. Davis and I'm settling in to enjoy her new protagonist.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago