Thursday, December 28, 2006

Review: Ode to a Banker

Title: Ode to a Banker
Author: Lindsey Davis
Publisher: Mysterious Press
# of Pages: 370

Favorite Quote: Work has its place, but Hades, a man needs a home life.

Rating: 9/10
Marcus Didius Falco, Lindsey Davis's clever private informer, passes a hot Roman summer tracking down the killer of a Greek banker and publisher. Was the killer one of Aurelius Chrysippus's stable of writers, dissatisfied with the patron's lack of enthusiasm for his latest opus or resentful about the humiliating terms of his contract? Or was Chrysippus's bloody death connected to financial shenanigans at the Aurelian Bank? Commissioned to investigate the murder by his friend Petronius Longus, Falco finds himself in the middle of a case with clues that may lie in the fragments of a manuscript found at the murder scene--or maybe in the banking records someone seems willing to kill to keep secret. At the same time, Falco's sorting out a thorny family matter concerning his mother and his sister, both of whom seem inordinately fond of an imperial spy Falco has good reason to distrust. And if that's not enough, he's also being taken to the cleaners by the contractors his wife Helena Justina has engaged to renovate their new home. As usual, Davis brings first century Rome to glorious life, and subtly drives home the striking parallels between ancient and contemporary business, politics, and family life. In the 12th book of in this increasingly popular series, she makes the most of every opportunity for satire and spins a lively yarn guaranteed to make the reader laugh out loud and clamor for more. Fortunately, there's a solid backlist to entertain readers encountering Falco for the first time (One Virgin Too Many, Two for the Lions). --Jane Adams

It has been far too long since I read a Falco mystery. I have missed Falco, Helena, Petronius and all their extended family, and opening Ode to a Banker was like returning home after a long time away. I found Falco up to his ears in family drama with his mother, his father, his sisters and his long-time rival, Anacrites. Not to mention his dog being pregnant. The man puts up with a lot!

This mystery was also structured differently than the previous Falco installments- Falco took everyone involved in the mystery together and slowly unveiled the culprit in what I thought was a masterful climax to the story.

But I admit that I read these books not so much for the mystery as for the characters themselves. Falco is such a brilliant narrator- his sarcastic asides, his great love for Helena, and his frustration with his family are all very well realized. Reading about him and his exploits always makes me smile. And as the series continues, we learn more and more about Falco's commitments to his family and his friends, and how he handles situations that are increasingly out of his control. I love seeing the way he has matured over the series, seeing the way he and Helena deal with their family life, seeing the way he and Petronius always back each other. I am sure that the series will continue to evolve all of these characters, including Falco's sisters and his myriad collection of nieces and nephews. I am sure I'll enjoy the entire journey- this is by far my favorite historical mystery series.

1 comment:

  1. Never been a mystery girl myself but this one sounds like fun.


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