Wednesday, 1 July 1998

Lindsey Davis: Last Act in Palmyra (1994)

Edition: Century, 1994
Review number: 79

The sixth in Davis' Falco series about a first century private detective. Falco combines several investigations into one trip. Firstly, he's asked by the imperial household (the customer who expects to pay no fees) to take a look at the state of Nabatea, independent but only just over the edge of the empire. An old friend, the snake-dancer Thalia (now circus entrepeneur), asks him to look for a missing protege of hers, the water-organ player Sophrona; she is missing somewhere in the Decapolis, the Roman province north of Nabatea.

Falco travels to Nabatea with his "high class girlfriend" Helena, trying to pose as tourists. When they arrive, Falco discovers a body on one of the holy mountains; it is one of a company of travelling actors. Falco and Helena join the troupe, as they are told by the authorities that they need to leave Nabatea anyway. Falco takes over the dead man's position as writer, adapting classic Greek plays for contemporary audiences, and at the same time investigates the murder.

The whole plot, after some amusing digs at today's contemporary theatre (even then, managers were moaning about the imminent demise of live theatre) and the classics, comes to a climax in the Decapolitan city of Palmyra.

Once again, Davies produces an interesting and amusing dective story, and one which doesn't lay quite such an emphasis on the unsanitary aspects of ancient life as some of the earlier novels.

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