The 19th adventure of Marcus Didius Falco, the Roman imperial agent and informer (Saturnalia, 2007, etc.), takes him to Alexandria in 77 CE.
Falco has nothing on his mind but sightseeing in the colonies with his pregnant wife and rambunctious daughters, but their arrival at his uncle’s home in Egypt is almost instantly marred by that ruin of any vacation, the tedious dinner guest. The librarian is so ill-tempered that it’s a relief when he turns up dead in a hackneyed locked-room setup. As Falco investigates, he learns that the politics of the famed Library of Alexandria are just as petty as those of any modern academic analogue. The grasping lawyer, the silent astronomer, the equivocating philosopher, the practical zoologist and the public-minded curator are all competing for the dead man’s position in a corrupt bureaucracy. Beset by every manner of distraction from dancing girls to crocodiles to his own incorrigible father, Falco still finds himself more and more deeply immersed in the scholars’ schemes. Though others solve the puzzles of the substance that killed the librarian and how the door came to be locked, and Falco grossly misjudges the character of the murderer, his failures ruffle his smug sense of self-satisfaction not at all.
Like watching a slideshow of vacation photos narrated by your most pompous relative—predictable, condescending and clichéd.