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Lindsey Davis

Last Act in Palmyra
Mysterious Press (Time-Warner), 1996
Barnes & Noble


Marcus Didius Falco is an "observer" in first century Rome. Observing consists of finding information for others. In Falco's case, it usually means doing a lot of work for very little money. And money is an issue for Falco, since he is hoping to improve his social standing so that he can marry his long-time love, the senator's daughter, Helena Justina. In an effort to put a few coins in the change purse, Falco agrees to search for a missing circus performer. At the same time, he is checking out the nether regions for the Emperor prior to their possible annexation into the Roman empire. As the journey begins, Falco and Helena discover a drowned man, Heliodorus. Heliodorus was a playwright for a traveling acting ensemble. Falco takes on a third commission by serving as the playwright, and he and Helena travel with the troupe with Falco all the while trying to determine who killed Heliodorus. A second member of the group, Ione, is also drowned. Heliodorus was not well liked; Ione was well loved. Falco strives to find the murderer before any more deaths occur. Ultimately, he does; and everyone lives happily ever after. The actors move from town to town to town, crossing the desert. It's a long dry spell for the reader as well. There's not much of interest in each of the towns that the ensemble visits. And Falco seems to interview each of the actors repeatedly with much redundancy. The villain is predictable. I've enjoyed the other 5 books in this series, but this is the weakest entry. I missed the rich complexity of the Roman setting. As always, the relationship between Falco and Helena is well detailed and real; and there are several humorous observations as well as a slam-bang Greek farce type of ending. Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen.

- Maddy Van Hertbruggen, 11/25/2005

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