Tuesday, 27 October 1998

Lindsey Davis: Three Hands in the Fountain (1996)

Three Hands in the Fountain coverEdition: Century, 1997
Review number: 148

Three Hands in the Fountain is a slightly disappointing addition to the generally excellent series of Falco novels by Davis. Returning to Rome following an investigation in Spain and the birth there of his daughter (A Dying Light in Cordoba), Falco soon becomes involved in one of the most gruesome mysteries of his career when decomposing severed limbs begin to be found in Rome's drinking water supplies.

The mystery is to the same standard as in the other Falco novels, but to me the humour that was so enjoyable is missing here. This is partly because Falco's girlfriend, Helena, takes a far less prominent role in proceedings, being rather more taken up with the duties of motherhood in Roman society. It also perhaps indicates something of a "series fatigue" in Davis; maybe it is time for her to move on. (The problem is not, of course, unique to this series; it is a commonplace of genre fiction, where the financial incentives to continue recycling a proven formula often mean that it is used until after the author has anything new to say within it. Ngaio Marsh, for example, seemed to suffer from this problem every seven or eight books, though she solved it not by abandoning her well-worn characters but by introducing a new element.)

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