Book Review: The Jupiter Myth By Lindsey Davis

Book 14 in the Falco series. I would like to add “already” but when I think back, I realise I started book 1 (The Silver Pigs) in 2003. I want to read more than one a year for the remaining six now though. First off is this, the next one in the sequence. Falco is still in Britannia and on his way back to Rome, gets stuck in Londinium.

Following on directly from the previous book, Verovolcus (who appeared in the previous book) is found dead in a well of a rough London tavern. It is down to Falco to investigate; once again stuck in the province he likes the least. While there, he hears about his friend Petro in the city on a separate mission who is doing all he can to avoid Falco. Yet tragedy has struck Petronius Longus but he does not want to be found. Falco must find his friend while unravelling another mystery and a murder.

To make matters worse, his sister Maia is also in tow and she too is still hurting from the trauma of the last few books. Not least of all finally feeling glad to get Falco’s nemesis Anacrites. With his whole family in Londinium with him and trying to keep his friends and family sane, Falco must unravel conspiracies, gangs and murder in the slums of the capital of the Roman province at the far north-west of the empire.

14 books in. I don’t really need to keep covering how well these books read. I don’t feel I really need to cover the in-jokes and the tongue-in-cheek content. I don’t feel I really need to cover how much of the humour looks at the past through a modern lens with some references to how the world is today. You always get the distinct impression that Davis has a lot of fun writing these books. Her interest, knowledge, research and humour are in every book in this series so far. It’s a great mix of comedy and tragedy, of storytelling and “edutainment”.

Naturally, some of books in this series will be weaker than others. For me, despite all the praise that this book received, it feels weaker than some of the others. Certainly visiting Londinium was an interesting change of scene. Davis likes to cover the corners of the empire so that the sense of place doesn’t become repetitive. That is why Falco is remarkably well-travelled for a man of middle class means.

I can’t quite put my finger on why this didn’t quite capture my attention as much as the others. Perhaps it was the growing sense of tragedy – for Maia and for Petro – when this series has been big on laughs and low on the darkness. Perhaps I just didn’t find the Londinium setting all that interesting compared to the south coast where he oversaw the building of Fishbourne Palace.

The narrative and characters are as strong as ever and I have no real complaints about the book. It’s not bad, it’s just not great either. There is only one laugh out loud moment. I think because the series has been so strong so far, that those that are just so-so simply fail to set me alight. This is still a strong entry in the series though.

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