The Graveyard of the Hesperides

Written by Lindsey Davis
Review by Carol McGrath

Flavia Albia is about to marry the magistrate, Manlius Faustus, in a formal wedding, and her sisters are thrilled to take on the wedding planning. Solving a new case becomes a race against time because human bones are discovered in the garden of a bar Faustus’s workmen are renovating. Albia is determined to solve the case before her wedding day. More bodies are discovered. Her investigation takes her into a Roman underworld of fast food bars, gambling, protection rackets and prostitution.

Lindsey Davis knows her Roman world, and part of the joy of reading my first Davis novel was discovering it with all its omens, intrigues, streets, baths, apartment blocks, poverty, wealth, ceremonies and some very odd eating restrictions imposed by Emperor Domitian. Apparently, this is more important as a method of citizen control than the murky reality of crime. The other part lies in how the relationship between Albia and Faustus develops.

Davis’s characterisation is memorable and her dialogue sharp. Graveyard is a first- person, past-tense narrative so we see other characters from Albia’s witty perspective. Whilst she is an edgy, reckless, determined, quick, and perceptive personality, Faustus is reliable, considered and just too likeable. The lovers contrast well, bouncing ideas off each other, and we feel that they are, for now, a sound match.

This story is told in a superbly lively and fast-paced style, the author creating deviations and intriguing blind alleys which will keep a reader in a suspenseful grip throughout. If you know little about the Roman world at the beginning, you will know more by the story’s end. I recommend it for loyal Davis fans and all lovers of well-written historical crime.