The Third Nero (Flavia Albia)
by Lindsey Davis
Cover Artist: Anthony Hearsey
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250078919
Date: 11 July 2017 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Political plots provide opportunities for Flavia Albia to profit as an informer. Emperor Domitian is obsessed with plots against him and his freedman seeks Albia's help to find out who was behind the third Nero claimant.
In ancient Rome, plots flourish and often tentacles reach from remote outposts to the Capital itself. One such series of plots concerns the survival of Nero. So far two have been found and removed. Now, rumors of a third haunt Domitian, and his subordinates seek to locate and eliminate the pretender.
Recently married, Flavia Albia's husband was struck by lightning during a walk after the wedding. Luckily he survived, however, he is still somewhat incapacitated and Albia is forced to seek employment. She is a successful informer, a sort of inquiry agent. Agents of Domitian want her to interview the widows of two Romans executed overseas. One was governor of Britain and other in charge of the Eastern frontier. The agent readily agrees to Albia's fee.
One of the two dead men was rumored to be working with a Nero pretender, the third such. Neither widow had much to contribute. The situation is delicate and Albia handles it with aplomb.
Meanwhile, a spymaster for the eastern empire also seeks Albia's help. One of his covert operatives has left his post and is rumored to be in Rome. The spymaster wants Albia to locate him. Soon it becomes apparent there may be a conspirator within Domitian's staff.
Albia interviews a prisoner suspected of being the third Nero, but he is poisoned and dies. Because he was in a secure prison, one of the guards is suspected, but had fled.
Suspicion also falls on the envoy from Parthia and his household. Albia and her cousin pay a visit to the Parthian woman and find the lover of the missing spy among them. The Parthians are also suspicious, and Albia and her cousin are forced to escape.
As always, Lindsey Davis provides vivid details of life in ancient Rome with plenty of sly humor. Flavia Albia has a fascinating family all keyed into the inner workings of Rome. Intrepid, Albia survives and thrives in a place and time not pleasant for women. Those who like vivid history and a good story will be well pleased with The Third Nero. Davis has two major series as well as other novels.