Wednesday, 22 August 2001
Lindsey Davis: Ode to a Banker (2000)
Review number: 918
Recent novels in Davis' Falco series have tended to select a particular area of Roman life on which to concentrate; One Virgin Too Many, for example, has several plot strands concerned with religious ritual. In this novel, it is the literary establishment which she satirises. This makes for one of the funniest novels in the series, as Davis works jokes about the clichés of today's publishing world, critics and writers, into her first century setting.
It has already been established that Falco has aspirations as a poet, and at the start of the novel he has been persuaded to join a friend in a public reading. This brings him to the notice of a banker who runs a scriptorium - a sweatshop of slaves copying manuscripts - as a sideline. When this man is eventually murdered, Falco investigates. This is an intricately plotted mystery as well as a humorous historical novel; combining the two this successfully is a considerable achievement. Ode to a Banker is one of the best novels in the series.