I’m still waiting for a historical novel to feature the Cistercian monastery at Dore Abbey. Sleeper’s Castle came close.
I had no idea the Scudamore family had such deep roots in Herefordshire – they received lands there from William the Conqueror, and it was Sir John Scudamore who married Alys Glyndŵr in the early 1400s. They lived at Kentchurch, between Garway Hill and Ewyas Harold, and there’s a possibility that Alys’ father spent his final years in hiding there too.
Falco and Helena head east, to the kingdom of Nabatea and the Decapolis. Officially they are searching for a missing water organ player from snake charmer Thalia’s troupe; unofficially Falco is unexpectedly and unwillingly working for Imperial spymaster, and arch enemy, Anacrites.
The unofficial mission disappears almost as soon as they get to Petra, where they stumble across a dead body and fall in with with a touring group of theatricals.
Falco’s thespian side is unleashed as he, Helena and Nabatean priest/minder Musa try to work out who the murderer is.
Falco and Helena return to Rome after their adventures in Germania, straight into the bosom of Falco’s difficult family.
An army friend of his elder brother, Festus – who died a hero’s death in the Judean War – has lodged himself in Ma’s home and proceeds to make trouble for the Didius family, and Falco in particular.
We get to meet Falco’s errant father, Geminus, too and end up spending a lot of time in the company of The Didius Boys in a plot that revolves around stolen art, Mediterranean shipping, soldiers’ pay, Greek statues and auctions.
Five chapters, each one narrated by a member of Scott’s expedition and each one sharing their experiences of a different stage of the fatal race to the South Pole. Each stage spans the narrator’s birthday.