Book Review: Ode to a Banker by Lindsey Davis

Yes, it’s that time again when I dip into the colourful world of Lindsey Davis’ 1st century Roman informer (Private Detective) Marcus Didius Falco, his high-class wife Helena Justina and their growing family as Falco seeks to move up a class and gain some credibility and standing. This is number twelve in her twenty book series following the demobbed legionary. Just eight to go after this one.

Falco has taken it upon himself to write poetry and some of the early narrative will ring true and amuse writers – the distractions, the lack of free time and the obstacles to the creative process. In fact, it carries on in this manner and the jokes are about writing, creativity and publishing. There is a lot of satire on our art and the industry, including jokes at the expense of publishing houses – especially vanity publishing. Yes, this is the self-parody and the nod to her readers who are also writers and with that, it is one of the funniest books of this hilarious series. Davis’ books have always been funny, but on few occasions have I been so reduced to tears of laughter as I was with this one.

A vanity publisher had been murdered, and after being prime suspect for all of about three pages, Petronius Longus asks for Falco’s help. It is once again down to the Roman world’s most hapless and infamous Informers to find out who did it and why. With cameos from historical figures including the imperial family, Falco grumbles his way through another adventure.

Not wanting to repeat myself on style and flow, after all I have written reviews of all of these so far, I’m just going to say that there’s no change of form here. You know what to expect from the quick wit, colourful range of characters, the edutainment factor and his developing relationship with the regular characters. Anacrites is still lodging with Falco’s mum and you feel that when the time comes, it will not be a pretty ending between them.

I felt a bit thrown into the beginning of this one, there was no reintroduction and subtle reminders as from previous books, Davis just dives in and I felt it a little difficult to adjust, which is odd for a series that has accessibility as one of its core strengths. Thankfully, this last just a couple of chapters and I soon found myself back into the most major characters are reintroduced by about chapter 5.

Great stuff, as ever.

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