This is the 20th in the Marcus Didius Falco series of mystery novels set in post-Augustan Rome (1st century A.D.). This installment begins with the death of Falco’s father and of his newborn son and ends with … well, I shouldn’t tell you that.
Falco takes on the case of the murder of a merchant from Antium, a bug infested swampland south of Rome, and the disappearance of the merchant’s wife. Suspicion soon falls on the Claudii, an extended family of freedmen who terrorize their neighbors and travelers. When an apparent copycat murder occurs north of Rome, Falco is pulled off the case by Anacrites, the chief spy. Falco has had numerous run-ins with Anacrites in the past so he and his friend Petro are naturally suspicious of the chief spy’s motives and, naturally, continue to pursue the case.
Without giving too much away, Falco is Nemesis to Anacrites’ Hubris, and it is this conflict that drives the novel forward. Davis does a good job of slowly revealing Anacrites’ role in the murder, which begins to look like merely the last in a string of serial murders.