“The Ides of April” by Lindsey Davis – audio book – a slightly rocky start to “Falco – the daughter”

ides of aprilI was delighted when I saw that Lindsey Davis had launched a series featuring Falco’s adopted daughter as an informer in imperial Rome.

I caught the Falco bug in 2002 when I found “The Silver Pigs” about ten years after everyone else. I snorted down the first four books that year and then settled down to read one or two books a year thereafter. Last year I read “Nemesis”, the twentieth, last and the darkest book in the series, where Falco finally has to replace flippancy and stubborn insubordination with grim responsibility. He had become a Roman of substance, with things to lose and lies to hide. His days as an informer were clearly over. I regretted his passing but thought that Lyndsey Davis had done the right thing by him.

“The Ides of April” is set more than a decade later, The child Thalia was pregnant with in “Nemesis” is now an eleven year old boy. Flavia Albia is a twenty-eight year old widow and has been an informer for a number of years. Falco has “retired” to being an art dealer.

This gives everything a fresh start while providing enough continuity that I didn’t feel set adrift. It really is “Falco: the next generation”.

The plot here is clever and artfully told. Some of the pre-figuring is a little heavy-handed, making certain “reveals” a non-event but on the whole it adds to the light-hearted tone. There is a, perhaps inevitable, “Episode 1 Season 1” feel to the book but it promises well for the future.

I had two problems with the book: mixed feelings about Flavia Albia herself and mixed feelings about the narrator, I’m sure the two are related.

Flavia Albia is a misfit, neither fully Roman nor truly outsider. She is educated, ethical and cares for animals and small children. She is also violent, well aware of the threats to women in Roman law and Roman manners, and almost insanely determined to put herself in harm’s way.

This conflicted nature was mirrored by the approach of the narrator. She read skilfully, coping with dialogue and action well, but, in a story told in the first person, the voice of the narrator BECOMES the character and I couldn’t reconcile the upper class accent with the foul-mouthed cynicism and violent behaviour. But perhaps that was the point.

I ended the book feeling entertained and wanting to read more but still uncertain about whether I liked Flavia Albia

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