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.
Lindsey Davis is an English historical fictional novelist and this book is a spin off from her previous Falco detective series but you don’t need to have read any of these earlier ones to follow this. Having not read any Lindsey Davis or much historical fiction (hardly any actually) I wasn’t sure if this was going to be my cup of tea but I have to say, after a bumpy start I surprised myself and really enjoyed it.
I loved the plot, the setting and the characters but the bumpy start I refer to above was the language. I was totally not expecting to be reading a novel set in AD 89 but written in 21st century language. The first thing which alerted me to this was “A pall of dust over everything made it an asthmatic’s graveyard.” Excuse my ignorance, but I would assume Ancient Roman’s wouldn’t have known about Asthma let alone be naming it. Later on there’s mentions of shagging, morons and prick, of course I wasn’t expecting to be written in Latin but I guess I was just expecting a historical fictional novel to be written as if in that time…you know, like Bronte or Austen etc. However, once I got over that I was actually glad it was written like this because it made for quite an easy read.
The main character, Flavia Albia is referred to throughout as Albia. As a woman in a very man’s world she is not often taking seriously by the local authorities but carries on regardless and gets her job done. She’s an Informer which I interpreted to be a private detective. The title, The Ides of April, refers to a date in the ancient Roman calendar; in April this is the 13th but is also Albia’s adopted birthday. As she was adopted she (and her parents) doesn’t know her true birth date so they picked this one. It is also a significant date in the story because of the Cerialia festival and the fox-burning which Albia detests.
I raced through the last few chapters as it all began to unravel, my suspicions over who was the murderer were correct but I didn’t see the other twist coming (won’t spoil incase you read).
I hope that there’ll be more in the Flavia Albia series as I’d love to read another. Read if you’re a fan of Davis, love historical fiction or fancy a murder mystery with a difference.
Thank you to the publisher Hodder & Stoughton for sending through a copy to review.
The Ides of April is available from Amazon The Ides of April: Falco: The New Generation