"Melds scrupulous research, arch banter, caustic characters, and strong plotting...Flavia Albia is delightful, trickster-y company to spend time with." -- New York Times Book Review
In Rome, 89 A.D., poisonings, murders, and a bloody gang war of retribution breaks out during the festival of Saturnalia, and when her husband, Tiberius, becomes a target, it's time for Flavia Albia to take matters into her own hands -- in Lindsey Davis’s next historical mystery, A Comedy of Terrors.
Flavia Albia, daughter and successor of private informer Marcus Didius Falco is twiddling her thumbs with no clients during the December festival of Saturnalia. But that doesn't mean all is quiet. Her husband Tiberius and the Fourth Cohort are battling organized crime interests that are going to war over the festival nuts. A series of accidental poisonings, then bloody murders of rival nut-sellers, and finally a gruesome warning to Tiberius from the hidden criminal powers to back off.
Albia has had just about enough and combines forces with Tiberius to uncover the hidden criminal gangs trying to worm their way into the establishment at a banquet of the emperor Domitian.
Davis's strong ninth mystery set in ancient Rome starring private informer Flavia Albia (after 2020's The Grove of the Caesars) finds Flavia's husband, Tiberius Manlius, a magistrate in charge of the ancient Roman equivalent of consumer protection, drawn into his own inquiry. Nuts being sold in honor of the Saturnalia festival have made several Romans sick. Tiberius's assistant believes that organized criminals, seeking to eliminate competition by sabotaging rivals in the nut trade, are responsible. Soon after Tiberius begins to investigate, the severed head of their pet sheep is left on their doorstep. With characteristic humorous disdain, Flavia takes the threat in stride ("Criminals can be very blinkered. They do not grasp that a householder and his wife have neither time nor energy to respond to stupid gestures"). After she teams up with Tiberius, they uncover a wide pattern of racketeering that includes murder, public corruption, extortion, and tax fraud. Davis convincingly depicts first-century mobsters, an aspect of ancient Roman criminality that's been underutilized by authors writing about this period. This series remains as fresh as ever.