REVIEW of The Grove of the Caesars (Flavia Albia #8) by Lindsey Davis

When Flavia Albia’s aedile husband Tiberius goes out of town to attend on his dying sister, Albia is left with the mess of sorting out his construction company’s building projects and finding a serial killer in the gardens that Julius Caesar donated to the people over a century ago. Apparently some wretched pervert has been murdering women in the Grove of the Caesars for a decade and a half, but it’s only now that he’s throttled a woman of the higher class that the case is getting imperial attention. Expertly navigating the patriarchal Roman society, Albia offers her skills as an informer (translation: detective) to the bereaved husband. Teaming up with the Seventh Cohort of vigiles (translation: firemen or policemen), Albia sets out to find the most ordinary-looking man in Rome who has perpetrated the most extraordinary crimes.

I remember this series starting out a little underwhelming (The Ides of April: Flavia Albia #1) , but I wonder if perhaps I’ve missed a couple volumes since this book is all the way up to number eight? I can definitely say that Albia comes into her own in this book, scattering dry humor about like pearls as she observes the acquisitiveness of her meretricious maid Suza, the immoral antics of Domitian’s dancing boys, and the lazy habits of the painters and slaves who loll about her residence. Her famous father Falco never appears in this book, but he gets more than a handful of mentions, and Albia even horns in on his auction house to help solve a side-mystery involving ancient scrolls that may or may not be forgeries.

While the psychological profiling that Albia and her vigilis counterpart Ursus use does feel a little modern, there is so much depth to the Roman world that Lindsey Davis has created that this anachronism hardly matters. Now that I’ve warmed up to our heroine, I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next in the Flavia Albia series…and maybe catching up on all the ones I’ve missed!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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