Christmas Preparations and Advent Boxes reveal another Historical Novelist

Sorry folks, it has been a day of cleaning, cooking and present wrapping, so not much time for blog writing. I will spare you the details of my cleaning regime! I am sure you don’t want to read about the gory details of my swirling ecologically sound cleaning products round toilet bowls. Cake icing then. I should explain that this is not some elaborate creation; I usually opt for a rough snow scene. Something strange happened to the texture of today’s efforts, which somewhat resembled rice pudding. That would be very runny rice pudding. It wasn’t quite as bad as the year when the icing was so lacking in substance that I ended up with a bald cake and a halo of icing on the plate but it was close. My present wrapping efforts were not of the most elegant but the majority of my recipients are not of an age to appreciate the finer points of envelope corners and delicate bows. Time to relax.

saturnalia-255More Roman sleuths today in the shape of Lindsay Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco and her later creation, Flavia Alba. Between 1989 and 2010 Davis published twenty novels about the hapless Falco who, together with his sidekick Petronius from the vigils, attempts to solve murders and mysteries in the Roman world. Several of the novels are set in Italia but others take Falco across the Roman Empire, including Roman Britain. We first meet Falco in 70AD in The Silver Pigs. His stable but socially daring, relationship with senator’s daughter Helena Justinia follows the reader throughout the series and we watch their family grow over the years. The historical background is convincing and it is easy to picture Ancient Rome, from Falco’s perilous accommodation in Rome itself, to well known landmarks such as Pompeii and Bath. Falco’s nemesis the Emperor’s official spy, Anacritis, crops up in many of the books; the final one in the series is actually called Nemesis. There are other recurring characters, such as Thalia the exotic dancer. We also learn more about Falco’s own, slightly disreputable, family; these too become people we come to know and love. In fact the careful drawing of minor characters, such as Agatha the laundress, is one of Davis’ great strengths.

The heroine of Davis’ more recent books is Falco’s step daughter, Flavia Alba but somehow I can’t quite take to her as I did to Falco. In a rare departure from the Roman Empire, Davis wrote Rebels and Traitors, set during the English Civil War. Parliamentarian, Gideon Jukes, inhabits a believable seventeenth century world and you can absorb the social history woven within the fast-moving plot. A favourite author and a favourite time period – winner! PS her audio books are on offer this month

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