‘Last Act in Palmyra’ is the 6th novel in Lindsey Davis’s Falco series of novels which feature the detective Marcus Didius Falco, a Roman in the first century.
At the end of the previous novel – ‘Poseidon’s Gold’, Falco was refused a promotion to the middle class which he needs in order to marry his girlfriend – Senator’s daughter Helena Justina. Falco has promised Helena that he will not work for the palace again, but there is not much work around and they need to eat, so when the palace spy – Anacrites offers Falco work, he takes it. He is sent to Petra in Nabataea (now Jordan) on a fact finding mission. He manages to combine this with another assignment from his friend Thalia the snake dancer. One of her musicians has gone missing and is believed to be in Decapolis or Syria.
Shortly after their arrival in Petra, Falco and Helena discover a body drowned in a sacred pool on a mountain. After being questioned, they are thrown out of Petra. They come across a troupe of travelling actors and join them, with Falco taking on the job of playwright which was held by the murdered man. Not wanting a murder to go unpunished, Falco now has another reason for being in the East.
The actors travel from town to town putting on plays – altered slightly (by Falco) to suit each audience. Falco questions the members of the troupe, gradually narrowing down his suspect list. Meanwhile, he is also on the lookout for the missing Sophorina.
Eventually, with the suspect list quite small, disaster strikes for Falco and Helena.
Approaching their final city – Palmyra in Syria, Thalia catches up with them and they finally determine the identity of the murderer.
This novel contained most of the usual fun and games that are found in Lindsey Davis’s Falco novels. I did find this one a bit slow at some sections in the middle (a bit like a trudge through the desert) but the end was excellent. And there were a lot of very entertaining characters along the way. The next in the series is ‘Time To Depart’.
Book Published 1994