My fifteenth book in the book challenge is another in the Marcus Didius Falco mystery series by Lindsey Davis entitled Saturnalia. It is centered around the Roman holiday of Saturnalia as a backdrop to the action of the various plots and subplots. The main plot involves the capture and escape of the German priestess Veleda, whom we met previously when Flaco and his brother-in-law Justinus were searching for a Roman tribune in Germany several years earlier and Veleda would only talk to Justinus. At the time, Justinus was quite taken with Veleda.
But times have changed. Justinus has married and is now the father of a baby boy. Claudia is jealous of Justinus’s previous relationship with Veleda, of course. Falco has been commissioned to find the escaped Veleda who is loose somewhere in Rome and is thought to have murdered a young man from the house in which she has been staying. In the meanwhile, someone has been murdering the homeless people in Rome who inhabit the tombs along the Via Appia. Falco has a group of soldiers staying at his house in to help in his search for Veleda. Of course, Anacrites is also on Veleda’s trail with the Praetorian Guard.
Mixed into all this is the seven day celebration of the winter holiday of Saturnalia, where master and slaves exchange places and gifts and there is much partying and frivolity. In the midst of all these goings-on, Falco is able to locate Veleda, hide her from Anacrites, and participate in the Saturnalia festivities. His mother-in-law, with the help of her friend the Vestal Virgin, is able to convince Titus Caesar to spare Veleda’s life and we see Julia Justa as we have never seen her before–a strong, determined woman who involves herself in the political scene.
More surprises are in store in this book for Falco and Helena in the personal lives and the next book should bring even more interesting adventures. Fifteen down, 85 to go.