A second-generation Roman sleuth who lives by her wits needs all of them to solve a string of killings that strike too close to home.
In A.D. 89, during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, Flavia Albia works as an informer in the shadow of her famous father, Falco. It's a difficult job, especially for a woman. Hired by a woman named Salvidia to "apply legal pressure to some compensation-seekers," Flavia gets stiffed when her client turns up stiff, a victim of botanical poisoning. She doesn't originally suspect foul play, but when Salvidia's stepson Metellus Nepos hires her to investigate, Flavia is certainly willing to take the gig. She finds a handful of enemies of the deceased, but none quite rises to the dubious status of suspect. What she doesn't see coming is the unexpected death of Salvidia's friend and neighbor, Celendina, right after attending Salvidia's funeral ceremony. Nepos is apoplectic. Flavia visits the lazy local investigator, Titus Morellus, for his opinion, and he immediately implicates the elaborately grieving stepson. A spate of similarly suspicious deaths follows, but the victims—a toddler, a teen, an athlete, etc.—range far and wide in age and gender. There seems no conceivable pattern, unless Flavia can find one. Flavia Albia makes her debut courtesy of the author of the long-running Marcus Didius Falco series (Nemesis, 2010, etc.). This installment includes the same helpful map of the city and cast of characters and a feistier style.
The whodunit unfolds slowly, but Flavia demonstrates appealing wit and grit.