25 Jul 2016



INNER FRONT COVER BLURB: Flavia Albia is the adopted daughter of a famous investigating family. In defiance of tradition, she lives alone on the colourful Aventine Hill, and battles out a solo career in a male-dominated world. As a woman and an outsider, Albia has special insight into the best, and worst, of life in ancient Rome.

A female client dies in mysterious circumstances. Albia investigates and discovers there have been many other strange deaths all over the city, yet she is warned off by the authorities. The vigils are incompetent. The local magistrate is otherwise engaged, organising the Games of Ceres, notorious for its ancient fox-burning ritual. Even Albia herself is preoccupied with a new love affair: Andronicus, an attractive archivist, offers all that a love-starved young widow can want, even though she knows better than to take him home to meet the parents...

As the festival progresses, her neighbourhood descends into mayhem and becomes the heartless killer's territory. While Albia and her allies search for him, he stalks them through familiar byways and brings murder ever closer to home.

FIRST SENTENCE {Rome, the Aventine Hill: March - April AD 89 ~ Chapter 1}: Lucius Bassus was three years old when his mother took her eyes off him and he ran out of the house to play.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 27}: I gave him my professional biography. I stressed the mundane side: chasing runaway adolescents for anxious parents, routine hunts for missing birth certificates or army discharge papers, or for missing heirs, or missing chickens that naughty neighbours had already cooked up in tarragon ...

SOURCE: Purchased by Mr T from a charity shop especially for this challenge.

MY THOUGHTS: I seem to remember reading something very similar by this author pre-Pen and Paper. Turns out it kind of proceeds her 'Falco' series, following Marcus Didius Falco's adopted daughter, Flavia Albia, who, now 28, has taken over daddy's business as a Private Investigator/Informer.

Set in Rome - I know this because I'm told this is the case, my problem being I somehow don't feel it - this, the first case in the Flavia Albia Mysteries, is based on similar known cases.

To sum my feelings up ...

I adored Albia as the feisty, 'modern' woman that she is - I just didn't necessarily buy into her as a Roman character. Loved her sarcastic humour which I seem to remember also set apart the Falco books. Alas its just a shame that it is her voice, this constant overly descriptive first-hand narrative, that tends to interrupt the flow of the story. 

Curious about the authors seemingly rabid dislike of men - or was it just lazy writing, her stereotyping the ancient Roman male? - her endless portrayal of them as (at best) incompetent boors or (at worst) sexual predators. 

Disappointingly I worked out who-dun-it early on thus the climax was, well, anti-climatic. 

Overall I think it fair to say that though an OK read I have read similar fiction (albeit not with a female protagonist) that was, shall we say, more to my taste.

Read for the What's In A Name? 2016 Challenge: A book with a month of the year' in it's title. This is the last book of six novels read for the challenge. CHALLENGE COMPLETED.


Brian Joseph said...

The idea behind this seems interesting. However, based on your commentary it sounds as if the character seems unrealistic. for the time.

As for the portrayal of men in this book. I wonder if the morality of the ancients was so different from ours if almost everyone would seem like a bad person to us.

Kelly said...

I wondered how you would feel about this book when I saw you were reading it.

You may remember, I'm a great fan of the author's Falco series (that precedes this book) and was quite disappointed in this first outing with Flavia. FYI, I've read books two and three in the series (book four just arrived on my shelf) and they were back on par with what I expected from the author and I loved them both.

I didn't remember that about her treatment of men, but maybe the author's personal life plays into that.

Melliane said...

The idea is interesting but too bad it didn't follow that much.

Natasha Hill said...

This does sound interesting, and I do love a good feisty female protagonist! I like the fact it's set in Roman times as well and the whodunnit theme would definitely keep me interested. Will have to try and find this! Hope you've been well Tracy :) - Tasha

ClaudineGueh@CarryUsOffBooks said...

Sounds like you didn't enjoy this one, Tracy, and I can definitely understand why. Not feeling the setting and the stereotyped characters can kill off an appetite. As for guessing the whodunnit early on, it's a conflict for me. I'd love to find out/deduce the 'who' before the grand revelation (it's the ego thing) but I'd also still like to be surprised by other elements so it wouldn't be all too predictable.