Desperate Undertaking
by Davis, Lindsey

Taking over her father's business as a private informer in ancient Rome, Flavia Albia is hired to investigate a series of brutal murders, in the 10th novel of the series following A Comedy of Terrors. 30,000 first printing.

LINDSEY DAVIS is the author of the New York Times bestselling series of historical mysteries featuring Marcus Didius Falco, which started with The Silver Pigs, and the mysteries featuring Falco's daughter, Flavia Albia, which started with The Ides of April. She has also authored a few acclaimed historical novels, including The Course of Honour. She lives in Birmingham, UK.

In this tenth Flavia Albia novel (after A Comedy of Terrors, 2021), a psychopath is leaving bodies of brutally murdered victims staged in prominent places around Rome. The first two were the beloved leaders of a traveling theatrical troupe. Actors in the ancient world were considered social outlaws, along with gladiators and brothel workers, but, even so, Flavia is hard pressed to figure out what they might have done to deserve their gruesome ends. Armed only with her determination and her "crazy British druid stare," she descends into the demimonde of the theater world-such as it was in 89 CE. She warns: "Never assume that actors are the only people who can act." This is her most dangerous investigation so far, but as the body count increases, help comes in the form of two young vigiles (firefighters and watchmen), Milo and Hilo, who brighten an unusually dark tale. This provides a fascinating look at classical drama that leaves readers with a whole new level of understanding. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

The thespians of ancient Rome are terrorized by a serial killer with a flair for the theatrical. The piquant 10th case for Flavia Alba begins with a brutal bang, as the intrepid sleuth cradles Phrygia, a dying woman who's been mauled by Buculus the bull at the Theatre of Balbus; when asked who'd set her up, the woman declares that she was killed by "the undertaker." The story then flashes back to another murder at the theater, that of Chremes, an actor/manager who was hung naked and left to die on a cross earlier that same day. Though Flavia's husband, Tiberius, is a stalwart sidekick, she craves the insights of her father, Marcus Didius Falco, the veteran investigator who anchored Davis' other long-running series, who's fled the city for some R&R with wife Helena after the boisterous festivities of the Saturnalia. Investigating Chremes' death, Flavia questions all the theater folk, including Chremes' wife, Phrygia, whose bizarre death at the horns of Buculus the bull will soon occur. The circle of colorful suspects is large, but many have alibis, and none seems to have a connection to an undertaker. The complexity of the crimes leads Flavia to hypothesize multiple killers with serious grudges. The anxieties an impending production of Oedipus Rex triggers among the company are amplified by the death of a leading actor and his driver. Flavia's first-person narration is refreshingly wry and pointed. Davis helpfully provides armchair sleuths with a complete cast of characters and detailed maps. A brisk and tidy mystery studded with humor and interesting historic detail. Copyright Kirkus 2022 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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