The Graveyard of the Hesperides (Flavia Albia)
by Lindsey Davis
Cover Artist: David Baddeosingh Rotstein
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250131157
Date: 23 May 2017 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
[NOTE: This review previously ran in our September 2016 issue of Gumshoe Review.]
Ancient Rome provides a perfect setting for murder and treachery in The Graveyard of the Hesperides. Flavia Albia, an informer (private detective), would much rather pursue a murderer than plan a wedding. When her financÚ's workmen turn up bones while remodeling a courtyard, Flavia swings into action. However, others have no desire to see the crime solved even if it takes another murder.
A feminist, Flavia succeeds in a male dominated profession and society thanks also to her eccentric family. Born in Britain and adopted by Helena Justina and Marcus Didiuus Falco, Flavia had an unusual upbringing. Her kin also includes lawyers and other notables. Her background as an informer makes her well suited to pursue a possible murder investigation.
Rumour has it a barmaid of the Garden disappeared years before without leaving a trace. Was she murdered? The bones prove to be from several people. More excavations ensue and eventually, they uncover the bones of three men, a woman with no head and a dog. One man had his leg cut off. No one claims to have known anything about the dead people or the murders.
Shopkeepers and barmaids in the area are reluctant to talk and claim no knowledge of the murders or the victims. Meanwhile, despite the distractions of the coming marriage, Flavia and her fiancÚ, the plebeian aedile Tiberius Manlius Faustus, investigate the murders. The pressure of the coming wedding weighs on Flavia. She wants to resolve the matter before her wedding.
Persistence and the ability to build a mosaic of people, motives, and actions help her move toward a rationale for and hence a solution to the murders. Meanwhile, Tiberius fears for her safety.
Wry humour enlivens the mystery along with details of life in 89 A.D. Rome. This is Lindsey Davis' fourth Flavia Albia Mystery. The others are: The Ides of April, Enemies at Home, and Deadly Election. She is also the author of the popular Falco series also set in the ancient Rome and its empire.