March 2009; I have found a copy of Alexandria, and just finished reading it. Delighted. A review will appear here soon.
Before publication, I was doing a search for new Falco websites (I found Microsoft’s Powerset, which appears to be a Wikipedia enhancement) (some enhancement…. ) when lo—and—behold, I found Alexandria in the search results. Random House had put up a taster and the blurb. Well, now that the proper book cover is available, I have refreshed it with the correct book cover.
Well, mayhap we can whet your appetite and give you the taster from Random House:
The new Falco novel finds Lindsey Davis’s First Century detective Marcus Didius Falco and his partner Helena Justina investigating crime in the famous city of Alexandria. Helena Justina has “one up” on Falco, having seen the “wonders of the world”; both want to see the great Library of Alexandra.
For Marcus Didius Falco, agent to the Emperor Vespasian, Alexandria holds fascination and a hint of fear. Beautiful, historic and famously unruly, the great cosmopolitan city wears Roman rule lightly. While his wife, Helena Justina, wants to see the Lighthouse and the Pyramids, Falco has a mission at the Great Library that soon turns out to involve much more than stock-taking its innumerable scrolls.
A mysterious death in the library brings him into conflict with the darker side of academic life. With forensic science in its infancy, even an illegal autopsy fails to find real answers. To solve the crime for the Roman Prefect—if indeed it is a crime—Falco will have to draw on his own doggedness and intuition, at first supported only by Helena’s commonsense and the loyal backup of her brother Aulus, who goes undercover as a student among the in-fighting academics. The philosophers hunger after fame and fortune so ruthlessly there is soon another terrifying death, this time at the royal zoo.
It so happens that his Uncle Fulvius is living in Alexandria with his partner Cassius. Their involvement in local affairs already seems shady when they are joined by their crony, Falco’s father, Geminus, a man well-known for disreputable business practices. If the irrepressible Pa has had a hand in events at the library, Falco knows he stands no chance. Falco becomes Crocodile Dundee!
It was well written, methinks, with boring renditions of library scrolls, how scrolls were reproduced and what actually passed for scholarship in the Ancient World. The Librarian has a sinecure, and everyone else in the Library is frightened of the croocdile and mysterious disappearances. Not much has changed in modern Rome, where the Vatican opens early in the morning and shuts up shop after lunch for the day. Poor pay.
Falco is strained to his limits with these scrolls and needs his life-time helpmate to decipher which scroll is real, fake, burnt, soggy, destroyed, and of any worth at all. There was a distinct back-door trade in scrolls, as the author so graphically portrays it. A gripping finale!
Alexandra, courtesy of NASA
a tomb from Alexandra …
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