The Ides of April is the first in Lindsey Davis’ new mystery series set in ancient Rome, featuring Flavia Albia, the adopted daughter of her popular series detective, Marcus Didius Falco. Flavia, a widow in her late twenties, is living in a ramshackle apartment once owned by Falco and working as a private informer, investigating crimes during the reign of the tyrannical emperor Domitian. She is hired to investigate the death of a little boy who’s run over by a wagon, when her client dies. Soon Flavia learns that this is one of a series of sudden deaths in her district of Rome. All the victims were apparently healthy; they came home after being out in the city, then collapsed and died. Supposedly none of the victims knew each other. Flavia realizes they were poisoned, and, with the help of a handsome archivist, a freed slave employed by one of the prime suspects, searches for the killer.
As always, Davis is wonderful at describing the details of life in ancient Rome. Her dialogue is modern in tone, which some readers don’t like, but which I find delightful. Longtime readers of her mysteries will miss Falco, but Flavia is a great protagonist. She’s witty, with a sharp tongue and a dry sense of humor, but she has a tender heart underneath it, as we see when she rescues foxes that are going to be sacrificed in a ritual. And she’s determined to make her own way as an independent woman, at a time when that was not possible for many women. I look forward to reading more of her adventures.
The Ides of April is available from the Browsing Collection in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library .