A thoroughly enjoyable romp on the wrong (non-Roman) side of the Rhenus / Rhine, for the reader at least, as Marcus Didius Falco is ordered by Emperor Vespasian to deliver the Iron Hand of Mars to the 14th Gemina, one of the legions controlling the border between Roman Gaul and Free Germany. And to do a spot of investigating on the side with the aim of reaching a peace settlement with the Celtic tribes of Free Germany. Not much to do there then.
Experiences en route to to frontier, and beyond it, prove to be rather less enjoyable for those involved – Falco, Helena’s beloved younger brother Justinus, and a crew of novice legionaries under the command of grizzled Centurion Helvetius. And a flamboyantly attired hairdresser to Emperors, keen to do a spot of sight seeing abroad…….
Roman private eye, Marcus Didius Falco, tangles with the nouveau riche of the Pincian Hill, and his ensuing investigation brings him into the nefarious realms of rogue developer landlords and a professional bride trailing three deceased husbands in her wake.
Very kindly purchased for me by the Barbican Library team, “to ensure we have the whole series.”
From the chaos and confusion wrought by the Black Death to the Peasants Revolt, with a 12th century prelude, Sylvia Townsend Warner takes us on a slow progress through thirty years of medieval history in the company of novices, nuns and prioresses, priests and bishops, villagers breaking the bonds of feudalism and educated young men rising on the coat tails of family connections, all connected by the church and priory at Oby, isolated amidst the marshlands and wastelands of the Norfolk coast.
This mid 20th novel has popped up in a fewdifferent recommendations I’ve read over the last year, and it turns out I was not alone in being inspired to read it; I had to pounce when I spotted the Little Brown 2012 edition on the Barbican Library’s recommended reads display. That said, I have an inkling that I’ve read it before, a long time ago….
A favourite few sentences:
He was looking at the spire. As the web of low-lying cloud scurried under the wind it seemed to breathe like a living thing. Sometimes it inhaled the light of day, and then its pallor enriched to the colour of a primrose; a moment later it waned and pulled the misty air over it like a veil; and whether it brightened or waned it seemed to be flying towards him against the scudding sky, so that he felt that in a moment it would bend down to his embrace.
Peter Grant (now a Detective Constable) and the rest of the magic-wielding team at the Folly are on the trail of Martin Chorley, the Faceless Man, with help from various, better known, parts of the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police. Lesley May and Mr Punch also feature, as do Beverley Brook and her Rivers of London family, and we meet another of the London River Goddesses – Lulu, aka Walbrook, serving pints in a Shoreditch pub.
Lots of action takes place in the City, from its Roman beginnings to 21st century financial centre, and the new Bloomberg building and the now-displaced Whitechapel Bell Foundry both play key roles.