When several dead women's bodies are found in the sacred grove of Julius Caesar, Flavia Albia decides to use her sleuthing skills to bring the serial killer to justice, even if she has to work with the vile investigator Julius Karus to do so.
There is so much to unpack in this story, which balances a truly grim series of crimes with several funny subplots, often intermingling them in surprising ways. Two young enslaved boys gifted to Albia’s household witness the killing and disappear; what starts as an odd bit of comic relief ends in a mix of tragedy and tenderness. Albia herself continues to be a treasure, grateful for her place in society because it was not always such, but willing to disobey nearly any order if her curiosity is piqued. Davis fills her stories with meticulous research, and the details make for such rich reading, we would likely follow Albia on a day of errands and light entertainment with no crime to speak of. But it’s thrilling to watch her follow a line of inquiry and connect the dots that others fail to see, so we can be glad that she rarely fails to find trouble and charge headlong toward it.
... the strength of this tale is in the police procedural aspect as well as 'seeing and experiencing' historical Rome. The victims of the killer tugged at my heart as these women are still the ones who society shrugs off as unimportant—at least until multiple bodies are unearthed/discovered and suddenly people act as if they care ... There is also another plot thread woven through the story that I kept waiting to see if it would be tied in with the serial killer. It was less interesting to me and slows the book a bit though it does allow Falco and the Didii auction house to enter the story ... I liked this book much more than the past few mainly because I sank into watching Albia and Ursus work together to outdo Julius Karus. I was also ready to (lightly) skim some paragraphs that serve as a roadmap to ancient Roman streets but don’t truly do more than allow us to watch Albia trudge around Rome. I hope that Tiberius takes a greater part in the next story as well as I enjoyed the interaction between them.