Venus in Copper by Lindsey Davis

MARCUS Didius Falco lacks the brooding darkness of Philip Marlowe, the damaged depths of Morse and the forensic knowledge common to any Pc Plod nowadays. They were a bit short on science in Ancient Rome. What Falco lacks in modern detective techniques he

MARCUS Didius Falco lacks the brooding darkness of Philip Marlowe, the damaged depths of Morse and the forensic knowledge common to any Pc Plod nowadays. They were a bit short on science in Ancient Rome.

What Falco lacks in modern detective techniques he makes up for in cheek, humour and tenacity.

He needs his nerve too when he comes up against the red-haired serial widow Severina Zotica and a cohort of dubious businessmen.

He is hired to protect Severina's fiancé but fails in conspicuous style. Not only does the portly gentleman kick the slop bucket but his cook dies too and Falco feels partly responsible.

The plot races along but the real charm of the story lies in its quirky background of Ancient Rome.

Venus in Copper is just one of the Falco books. If you like whodunnits with eccentric atmosphere, these are for you.

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Thanks to Ottakar's of Stevenage 4/5