Through his brother-in-law Aulus, Falco hears details of two young Roman women who have died in Greece while seeing the sights of the ancient world. Falco and his wife, Helena, travel to Greece to meet up with the tour party which included one of the women, seeking clues to her murder, passing through Olympia, Corinth, Delphi and the oracle of Trophonius at Lebadeia before finally arriving at Athens.
Falco also learns that a young bride was beaten to death just recently while also on a tour organized by Seven Sights Travel. And, on top of all this, Falco’s brother-in-law seems to have disappeared while he was on his way to Greece to study law.
Helena, Falco, two of Falco’s nephews, a bodyguard, the teenaged girl they have adopted, and the mongrel Nux, who has adopted Falco, leave for Olympia where both young woman had died, and where the tour organized by Seven Sights Travel is currently in residence.
There is confusion about the date of the Games, since Nero had decided unilaterally, that the year he visited Egypt was an Olympiad. As soon as he was out of sight, the Greeks returned to their traditional dating — therefore, the Games were to be held in the following year. The travel group from Rome had not been apprised of this.
Falco muses: “We were now in the cradle of democracy which we had seized for ourselves a couple of centuries ago. Nowhere in the Empire did Romans feel so out of place as in Greece. Imposing democracy on a country that had in fact already possessed it raised a few questions . . .”
Perhaps the reason that this series stays so fresh is that Falco’s Rome mirrors our world. The tour group has been misinformed. They are put up in lodgings that are not what had been promised. Not much different from tour operators today, then.
Sparkling dialogue, sly wit, and pertinent descriptive passages also help keep this series alive. And it doesn’t hurt that Falco doesn’t always stay in Rome. Here he follows the trail from Olympia (after some sarcastic comments about conditions during the Games), to Corinth, and finally to Delphi, with some trenchant comments about oracles along the way.
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Delphi remains …