by Lindsey Davis
Another 5-minute review. I’m not sure I’d classify this as a murder mystery, even though a murder does occur. It’s more of a military adventure romp with an undertow of Marcus in his own jealous, despondent dungeon over Helena. In that sense, Davis leads us on a merry chase where personal demons weave in and out of historical threads, current interpersonal conflicts, and Rome flexing its strength again.
At one point, I felt like I was drowning in historical details. I googled the Bructeri to find out who they were. Davis certainly did her research in describing them and where Marcus knew they’d be. It’s that sort of diligence that makes fiction believable and brings his adventures in Europe engaging and believable. But the details also spring up a forest that obscures the clues and delays the reader from solving the mystery. In the end, the murder isn’t the main point, really.
My one main complaint is that Davis’s use of British idiomatic language throws me right out of the Roman time and place and into modern UK television. It can be rather disconcerting. Ellis Peters does a much better job of using diction to enhance time and place.
Overall, this was an engaging adventure. And worth reading, especially in a pandemic when one wants to escape real life.