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'I still can't believe I've put the bastard away for good!' Petro muttered.
Petronius Longus, captain of the Aventine watch and Falco's oldest friend, has finally nailed on of Rome's top criminals. Under Roman law citizens are not imprisoned but are allowed 'time to depart' into exile outside the Empire. One dark and gloomy dawn Petro and Falcoput the evit Balbinus aboard ship.
But soon after, an outbreak of robbery and murder suggest a new criminal ring has moved into Balbinus' territory. Petro and Falco must descend into the underworld of Vespasian's Rome to investigate...
Fresh from Last Act in Palmyra, Marcus Didius Falco, that most modern of ancient Romans, takes on organized crime in this latest installment of Davis's impeccably executed series. Falco has a job everyone loves to hate: he's the Emperor Vespasian's informer, or private detective--and he does his work well. This time, he's up against Balbinus Pius, perhaps the original John Gotti. Balbinus has finally been convicted of a capital crime, but, in traditional Roman style, he's been given a chance to flee before his scheduled execution. The power vacuum created by his departure seems to have sucked up every miscreant in Rome: markets are plundered, children are kidnapped, centurions are murdered. While Falco sets out to determine whether the crime wave is the work of a new kingpin or a herd of small-time operators, his private life is also in a bit of a spin. Companion Helena, a senator's daughter whom Falco is forbidden by law to marry because of their differing rank, is pregnant. And he's also pitted against his old army buddy and best friend, Petronius, captain of the fourth cohort of the Aventine Watch, in a corruption investigation. The tale gets a bit bumpy, as Davis, compensating for a slightly subpar mystery plot, tosses in lots of action scenes and personal turmoil. But Falco remains as delightfully irreverent and insightful as ever; and Davis, as usual, brings the time to life while handling the eternals--worry, danger, love and in-laws--just as deftly.