Trunk Call is set in Rome at the beginning of the first century. Rufus Vatia, the purveyor of imperial elephants and a man with a mischievous sense of humour, is lying on his deathbed surrounded by three women claiming to his wife. Being a favourite of the emperor, Marcus Cornelius Orbilio has been sent to determine which of the three wives has the most legitimate claim on his estate after his death, in the hope that a scandal can be avoided.
When he arrives at Rufus Vatia’s home he also finds Claudia Seferius there, who confides in the imperial agent that she knows for a fact that the ‘dying man’ isn’t dying at all, but is playing a practical joke. So, it comes as a great surprise when Rufus Vatia actually dies, and not by natural means.
But who killed him? Was it one of the three wives? The rather nervous-looking doctor? Or Milo the steward, one of the only people granted access to the dying man’s chamber?
Trunk Call was an enjoyable and light-hearted, quick read. The dialogue was amusing and the characters believable, interacting well together.
This short was found in Murder Through the Ages: A Bumper Anthology of Historical Mysteries, ed. Maxim Jakubowski.