The aim of my 12 in 12 Challenge is to tackle the unread books on my shelves by giving each month a theme and trying to read twelve books of the same type. I am pleased to say that I have managed to achieve this for January and my twelfth book is by Lindsey Davis and is the seventh in her Falco series – Time to Depart.
It helps if you have read some or all of the earlier books in this series before you get to this one. The books are set in Ancient Rome and Marcus Didius Falco is an informer employed by various people but most often the emperor for various tasks. In this book he rejoices with his friend Petro who has arranged the conviction of a well-known criminal and the book begins as the two of them watch him leave Rome – rich and powerful individuals are not executed or imprisoned but given time to depart Rome and forbidden ever to return.
With the departure of the last crime lord there seems to be another master criminal emerging so Falco gets involved in trying to find out who has committed a large robbery as well as being tasked to investigate the investigators. In addition, his niece disappears and he finds an abandoned baby in a skip he is using to renovate his new home.
I cannot tell you how accurate the depiction of Ancient Rome is in these books but it feels real and the author really knows how to tell a compelling story. Falco is a delightfully seedy character who never quite achieves success, mainly because of his friends and family. Falco’s love is Helena, a senator’s daughter, who is a brilliantly depicted character in her independence and intelligence. One of the joys of these books is the love story between Falco and Helena which is touching and tender and which develops as the series progresses.
There is a lot of wry humour in the book but also an understanding of the desperate lives lived by the poor, powerless and slaves in Roman society. This story shows how vulnerable people and possessions are to those who prey on the less powerful and also how chillingly ruthless some people can be in pursuit of their own goals.
This is not one of the most memorable books in the series but it is enjoyable. The solution to the mystery is not particularly puzzling but you read these books to live a while with the characters and to live a little in a different time.
I really like reading crime novels and this has been one of the excellent reads I have enjoyed this month. I may get time to read one or two more crime novels before I move on to a different theme.
Keep reading (I will)