Desperate Undertaking (Flavia Albia)

Written by Lindsey Davis
Review by Mike Ashworth

Rome, AD 89. Falco, part-time private informer, and his wife are away on holiday when the first gruesome murder is discovered. Flavia Albia, Falco’s daughter, decides to investigate. She soon finds herself looking into a series of brutal murders. Her only clues are that the victims are all members of a theatrical group who are killed in a series of bloody tableaux. The last words of one of the victims—when asked “who did this to you?”—are “the undertaker.” Flavia’s investigation will put her into harm’s way.

Fans of Lindsey Davis will know what to expect from this book: a taut, well-researched plot, which brings alive the time and culture of ancient Rome, with a strong but subtle streak of humour running through as a counterpoint to the gruesome murders. This was the first of the Flavia Albia novels I have read. I finished it with a loud satisfied sigh, but I shall be off to my local bookshop for more. Exciting and suspenseful, the story builds to an exciting, nerve-wracking climax. Recommended.