Falco’s third case is nothing if not complex. Having distanced himself from working with the Palace – the Flavians like to keep a hold of their money, making it hard for any honest investigator to get paid – he finds himself employed by a close-knit bunch of freedmen. The case: stop a gold-digger black widow from marrying and then murdering the only unmarried one amongst them.
The gold digger is one Severina Zotica. She has a shady past: three dead husbands who died in mysterious circumstances leaving their fortunes to her. Naturally anyone would be worried about their friend – a rich friend – who wanted to get involved with such a woman.
But are these freedmen as concerned as they make out to be? When Falco goes to meet them in their sprawling villa on the Pincian Hill, what he finds is that the freedmen have much more money than taste (which they are happy to show off in any way they can). However, they are very, very canny when it comes to business. The question is, is it their friend or his money they are thinking about?
And what does this case have to do with a foul-mouthed parrot named Chloe and a circus snake-dancer? Falco will need all his wits about him if he’s to uncover the truth…
I have been reading this series over and over again for over ten years and I have yet to tire of it. In fact, I love these books so much, that as soon as I pick one up, I have to read it all before I can put it down again. So it comes as no surprise that I finished Venus in Copper in a day.
Lindsey Davis explains the complexities of Roman life very easily. From the proper naming conventions of freedmen to the insurance fraud that was rife throughout the city, Rome in its many shades is brought to colourful life with historical accuracy.
One of the things I love about these books is the humour that is woven through the story. These really are some of the most entertaining historical reads I have come across. Falco’s personality shines through and he is surrounded with a wonderful supporting cast: his long-suffering mother, Petronius Longus of the Aventine Watch, his classy girlfriend Helena Justina…to name but a few.
The story itself is gripping. As Falco tries to work his through the case and the upheavals in his private life, you cannot help but get drawn into the tale, rooting for the man at every turn.
I would recommend this book (and the whole series) to anyone who loves historical and / or detective fiction. Falco is one of the most original and interesting private investigators I have come across and these books really do stand apart from others in the genre.