The new Falco novel finds Lindsey Davis’s First Century detective Marcus Didius Falco and his partner Helena Justina investigating crime in the famous city of Alexandria.
For Marcus Didius Falco, agent to the Emperor Vespasian, Alexandria holds fascination and a hint of fear. Beautiful, historic and famously unruly, the great cosmopolitan city wears Roman rule lightly. While his wife, Helena Justina, wants to see the Lighthouse and the Pyramids, Falco has a mission at the Great Library that soon turns out to involve much more than stock-taking its innumerable scrolls.
A mysterious death in the library brings him into conflict with the darker side of academic life. With forensic science in its infancy, even an illegal autopsy fails to find real answers. To solve the crime for the Roman Prefect — if indeed it is a crime — Falco will have to draw on his own doggedness and intuition, at first supported only by Helena’s commonsense and the loyal backup of her brother Aulus, who goes undercover as a student among the in-fighting academics. The philosophers hunger after fame and fortune so ruthlessly there is soon another terrifying death, this time at the royal zoo.
It so happens that his Uncle Fulvius is living in Alexandria with his partner Cassius. Their involvement in local affairs already seems shady when they are joined by their crony, Falco’s father, Geminus, a man well-known for disreputable business practices. If the irrepressible Pa has had a hand in events at the library, Falco knows he stands no chance.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Lindsey Davis has written nineteen novels, beginning with The Course of Honour. She has won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, the Dagger in the Library, and a Sherlock Award for Falco as Best Comic Detective.
From the Hardcover edition.
Chapter OneEgypt: Spring AD 77 They say you can see the Lighthouse from thirty miles away. Not in the day, you can’t. Still, it kept the youngsters quiet, precariously balancing on the ship’s rail while they looked for it. When travelling with children, always keep a little game in hand for those last troublesome moments at the end of a long journey. We adults stood close by, wrapped up in cloaks against the breeze and ready to dive in if little Julia and Favonia accidentally plunged overboard. To add to our anxiety, we could see all the crew making urgent attempts to work out where we were as we approached the long, low, famously featureless coastline of Egypt, with its numerous shoals, currents, rocky outcrops, suddenly shifting winds and difficult lack of landmarks. We were passengers on a large cargo boat that was making its first lumbering trip south this season; indications were that over the winter everyone had forgotten how to do this journey. The dour captain was frantically taking soundings and looking for silt in seawater samples to tell him he was near the Nile. Since the Nile delta was absolutely enormous, I hoped he was not such a poor navigator he had missed it. Our sailing from Rhodes had not filled me with faith. I thought I could hear that salty old sea god Poseidon laughing. Some Greek geographer’s turgid memoirs had supplied oodles of misinformation to Helena Justina. My sceptical wife and tour-planner reckoned that even from this far out you could not only see the Lighthouse, shining like a big confusing star, but also smell the city wafting across the water. She swore she could. True or not, we two romantics convinced ourselves that exotic scents of lotus oil, rose petals, nard, Arabian balsam, bdellium and frankincense were greeting us over the warm ocean along with the other memorable odours of Alexandria, sweaty robes and overflowing sewage. Not to mention the occasional dead cow floating down the Nile. As a Roman, my handsome nose detected this perfume’s darkest under-notes. I knew my heritage. I came fully equipped with the old prejudice that anything to do with Egypt involved corruption and deceit. I was right too. At last we sailed safely through the treacherous shoals to what could only be the legendary city of Alexandria. The captain seemed relieved to have found it and perhaps surprised at his skilful steering. We pootled in under the enormous Lighthouse then he tried to find one empty space to moor amongst the thousands of vessels that lined the embankments of the Eastern Harbour. We had a pilot, but pointing out a spare stretch of quay was beneath him. He put himself off into a bumboat and left us to it. For a couple of hours our ship manoeuvred slowly up and down. At last we squeezed in, shaving the paint on two other vessels with the joggle-mooring method. Helena and I like to think we are good travellers, but we are human. We were tired and tense. It had taken six days from Athens, via Rhodes, and an interminable time out from Rome before that. We had lodgings; we were to stay with my Uncle Fulvius and his live-in boyfriend but we did not know them well and were anxious about how we would find their house. In addition, Helena and I were well-read. We knew our history. So, as we faced up to disembarkation, I could not help joking about Pompey the Great: how he was collected from his trireme to go ashore to meet the King of Egypt and how he was stabbed in the back by a Roman soldier he knew, butchered with his wife and children watching, then beheaded. My job involves weighing up risks, then taking them anyway. Despite Pompey, I was all set to lead the way bravely down the gangplank when Helena shoved me out of her way. Oh don’t be ridiculous, Falco. Nobody here wants your head yet. I’ll go first!’ she said. Excerpted from Alexandria by Lindsey Davis.Copyright © 2009 by Lindsey Davis.
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Book Description Arrow, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110099547929
Book Description Arrow, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0099547929