Chris High reviews 'Saturnalia' on


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Lindsey Davis: Saturnalia


Publisher: Century
ISBN: 1846050340
February 1st, 2007

Front cover of the book by Lindsey Davis: Saturnalia

written by

Lindsey Davis and Marcus Didius Falco are back and, after a two-year hiatus, it is not without a significant amount of pleasure that the cynical informer from Ancient Rome can be welcomed in Saturnalia, his eighteenth outing.


It is the Roman holiday of Saturnalia. The days are short, the nights are for wild parties. A general has captured a famous enemy of Rome, and brings her home to adorn his Triumph as a ritual sacrifice. The logistics go wrong; she acquires a mystery illness - then a young man is horrendously murdered and she escapes from house arrest. Marcus Didius Falco is pitted against his old rival, the Chief Spy Anacrites, in a race to find the fugitive before her presence angers the public and makes the government look stupid. Falco has other priorities, for Helena's brother Justinus has also vanished, perhaps fatally involved once more with the great lost love of his youth. Against the riotous backdrop of the season of misrule, the search seems impossible and only Falco seems to notice that some dark agency is bringing death to the city streets.

The Sunday Times handed the title of “Queen Of Humorous Crime Romp” to Lindsey and few can argue with its verdict. In Saturnalia, the author has once again conjured an ancient world and added just the right amounts of modern day salt and pepper to bring the full flavour of the period to life. In Falco, Helena and the like, Davis has created characters warm and real enough to want a reader to invite them around for dinner, yet who are also self-serving and back-stabbingly despicable enough to ensure their place is reserved at the far end of the table.

In all, Saturnalia has all of the hallmarks we have come to expect from the series, yet which again is entirely different from all that have gone before it. Such are the story’s strengths that this may well be book eighteen, but new readers need not start from scratch to enjoy this novel so well written – and so well defined – is the plotline.

Marcus Didius Falco – second sexiest fictional character behind Rhett Butler? Well, who can argue with the audience of BBC Radio 4’s Woman Hour when added to the fact “his” books have sold in excess of 1.5 million copies?

Read 'The launch of Lindsey Davis’s Saturnalia' by Chris High

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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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