It has been almost two years since I read the previous book in the series so I am certainly overdue! One Virgin Too Many is the eleventh book in Davis’ celebrated Falco series about a retired legionary setting himself up as a private detective in Vespasian’s Rome. The series is funny, educational and clever as far as crime fiction goes and this is and always has been an enormous selling point for Davis, arguably a giant in the historical fiction world.
Following on immediately from Two For the Lions, Falco returns home to inform his sister of hrt husband’s death at the hands of a lion. He has no time to rest; a young patrician girl is waiting for him and needs Falco’s help. Despite being no older than six, she seems very confident that a family member will soon try to kill her and she asks Falco to protect her. What’s more, she is the granddaughter of a chief priest and is about to be entered into a lottery to choose a Vestal Virgin. As these things are usually rarely random, it is expected that she will be the new initiate.
Naturally with these things, there is a murder prior to the ceremony which Falco must investigate. Soon afterwards, Gaia goes missing. Falco’s job once again is to find the killer and locate the girl before she suffers what some suspect to be a grisly fate.
You know what to expect by the time you get to book 11. The author clearly settled into her style and characters long ago. Now is the time to push the story forward and that’s just what she is doing now. The brief ceasefire between Falco and Anacrites is over, much to Falco’s relief and his mother’s disappointment. Anacrites is not fully healed though and his memory is still returning; therefore he is still around and not able to start scuppering Falco again or try to have him bumped off. So it’s largely back to the status quo and that’s not to say that there are no surprises.
Falco has finally been granted social promotion to the Equestrian Class but it doesn’t come with the prestige we might have hoped – it is both amusing and a little tragic. As part of his *honour*, Falco is made Procurator of Poultry, a role that puts him in charge of administering ritual chickens and geese and adds extra comic relief to the story.
The story moves along quite nicely. It feels a rather cosy family affair, rather in the tradition of Miss Marple. A lot of the previous books have had an international flavour but this gets back to basics and puts the mystery back at the heart of Rome. Overall, this is a great contribution to the series and I’m looking forward to the next one already.