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The family tragedy of a teenage daughter found dead in bed, punch ups between grannies, accusations of witchcraft (Emperor Domitian persecutes mathematicians and philosophers, so any suggestion of magic..!) is only the end of a thread of a tangle of scandal and crime in the affluent quarters of Rome, in which Albia is rather reluctantly engaged, at the request of her husband’s snooty and superficial ex-wife.
The spoiled adolescents of rich families behave just as underemployed, indulged youngsters have done, ever since some parts of human society was able to support idleness and an unearned sense of entitlement.
We also have middle-aged hippy parents, “Stoics”, like stinky old Cato, old ‘68ers, perhaps, without the apostrophe for 1968, enjoying nettle beer and mild dissident activity, on a decent unearned income from hardworking ancestors, but under Domitian’s paranoid and murderous rule, dangerous acquaintances - think McCarthyism!
There’s organised crime, working towards superficial respectability and “establishment” status, generation by generation ... nothing new under the sun!
I love the Falco family. They get around, cross class and ethnic barriers and translate 1st century life with humour, which must have been present then, but has been either censored out, or unrecorded, or lost over time in surviving written texts. There is a lot of historical background on the social life of the Roman Empire of the 1st century presented in this series in easily digestible form, much unknown or ignored until recently.
Albia is resilient, using her hideous childhood as a resource, rather than an excuse for self-pity, funny, and, not being Roman by birth, capable of seeing beyond the accepted norms, but adapting when required. She has outgrown her adolescent door slamming and flouncing, once enhanced by her insecurities of adoption into an alien culture, early
deprivation and abuse, lack of identity.
I look forward to hearing more of her, and her younger siblings, especially the wee brother who has Asperger’s, son of the outrageous and engaging snake-dancer Thalia, and, allegedly, Falco’s roguish father..
Not sure if this is a dip in the usual high standard, but Flavia is starting to come across all jolly hockey sticks and lacking the edge that Falco had, the constant references in this book of Falco made me pine for the old days, maybe a joint investigation to come, though voice wise i'm unsure how that would work.
Hopefully a blip and the best is to come