Uhtred encounters a Norse wolf lord with designs on becoming King of Northumbria, and the noose of Englaland draws ever tighter as Edward the Elder edges towards death and his successors start plotting….
Saturnalia festivities spell family time for Falco. Uh oh.
And to make matters worse, Germania’s most beguiling priestess, and Justinianus’ first love, Veleda has been captured and is being held under house arrest just outside Rome, where the son and heir has just been found murdered, his severed head in an ornamental pond….
Leaving daughters Julia Junilla and Sosia Favonia at home in the indulgent care of their grandparents, Falco and Helena, and a select ensemble of younger family and friends, plus Nux, head off to Greece to investigate the suspicious deaths of two young women a few years apart.
Falco takes on a small job to find a missing gossip columnist for the Daily Gazette, and decides to take the family with him to Ostia, Rome’s port.
As ever, holidaying en famille and combining work and pleasure proves less relaxing than planned, and Falco’s investigations turn out to kidnap, pirates and Uncle Fluvius, ‘the one no one talks about’.
There’s a note at the end of Transcription where Kate Atkinson reveals the twin inspirations for the novel – a set of World War II transcripts of recordings made of bugged premises, classified at the time but recently released by the National Archives, and Eric Roberts, a bank clerk at the Westminster Bank (Is there anything more boring?) who posed as a Gestapo agent during WW2 when he worked for MI5 as a spy (Is there anything more exciting?).
Transcription blends and fictionalises these two sets of facts, and revolves around (and reveals) the life of the young woman who typed the up the transcripts. And so we follow Juliet Armstrong from when she leaves school on the death of her mother, to her recruitment to work for MI5 as a typist, to living and loving in London during the war, into the 1950s and finally, briefly, to her life afterwards.