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Lindsey Davis

Venus in Copper
Crown, 1991
Barnes & Noble


"Rats are always bigger than you expect." So opens Venus in Copper, with Falco in prison because of an enmity engendered in Shadows in Bronze and based on Falco's (mis)use, in that book, of lead ingots left over from Silver Pigs. Copper is geographically and narratively tighter and a better mystery than Bronze (especially with three different murderers attempting to murder - and each thinking they have succeeded - the same victim), and as well-researched and finely detailed as the previous two. Copper opens up the colorful world of newly-rich freedmen, extravagant in their tastes but tasteless in their extravagance, and the corrupt practices of Roman landlords. The rich cast of characters includes many carried over from the previous volumes, such as Falco's family, his best friend - the vigil Petronius, Titus - Vespasian's golden son, and, most of all, the independent-minded Helena. But Davis introduces new and instructive characters in a snake-dancer, some rich freedmen and, especially, a beautiful young red-head whose three successive husbands find marriage fatal. Some apparent anachronisms creep in, e.g., Falco speaking about windmills (medieval) or Hittites from Asia (historically resurrected in modern times), but the wealth of informative detail on food, housing and customs makes this (as all the Davis novels) an excellent and painless source for students. (Mench)

- Fred Mench, 11/25/2005

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