Syria or bust?

The Monastery in the mountains above Petra
In the sixth installement of Lindsey Davis' Falco mysteries Last Act in Palmyra Falco and the love of his life, Helena Justina, go on a jaunt around the Near East. Still hoping to gain the money needed to win Helena's hand in marriage Falco is persuaded by the oily chief spy Anacrites to go on a mission to Petra. Meanwhile Thalia, a girl with a python and a penchant for Falco, is looking for a missing water-organist who was last seen in the Decapolis region. Falco decides to kill two birds with one stone and do a mission for both Anacrites and Thalia. All goes well until Falco and Helena stumble upon a murder in Petra, and end up pursuing the murderer across modern-day Jordan and Syria in the company of a motley collection of theatricals, and a justice seeking priest-in-training.

This book was a real treat for me mainly because I've been to Jordan and visited many of the historical sites (Petra, Gerasa (modern day Jerash)) mentioned here. So it was wonderful to read about them as they would have been in their prime (in the case of Gerasa just before its prime, as it was in the process of being built during Falco's visit). Davis is great at conjuring up atmosphere, and the sights, smells and sounds of the Near East leap off the page.

As an historical novel it's great fun, and educational too. As a crime novel it's not Davis' best. It's fairly obvious from very early on who committed the crime, and Falco doesn't seem to be at his sharpest. But in terms of readibility and humour it's great fun. Not the best novel I think to read if you've never read any Falco before, but definitely one for the fans, or for anyone who enjoys reading about ancient civilisations.


Aarti said…
I love this series! I am at Alexandria now, and I think Nemesis is out, too, so I'm a little behind, but willing to take it slow- Falco is just so fun!

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