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’.
Neat concept – a collection of chapters constructed around the Shipping Forecast. With snippets of history, geography and daily life in far flung places, connected by this iconic thrice daily broadcast on the BBC, it’s a nice read, particularly when you are very familiar with some of the places he writes about – sitting on the seafront at Walton on the Naze looking out at Sealand while reading the chapter on Thames being a personal case in point.
The sole irritation was Charlie Connelly’s occasional lapses in planning ahead, beyond getting to the coasts and islands covered in each chapter – no mean feat considering when it was written. Still, “when needs must” does result in some good anecdotes and encounters.