Three Hands in the Fountain by Lindsey Davis

THREE HANDS IN THE FOUNTAIN is the 9th Falco mystery by Lyndsey Davis featuring the private investigator Marcus Didius Falco in first century Rome.

Falco, along with his wife Helena and their new baby daughter have just returned to Rome from Spain. While they have been away, Falco’s best friend Petronius Longus has been thrown out by his wife for fooling around with another woman, and thrown out of the Vigiles because the woman he was fooling around with was the wife of a gangster. So now Petronius is living in Falco’s old apartment and has also become his new business partner. It doesn’t take too long for the partners to find their first job.

Falco and Petronius are drinking and watching a man clean a blocked fountain. The blockage turns out to be a human hand. And it seems that hands and other body parts have been turning up for years, normally during or shortly after festivals.

The investigation is headed by Julius Frontinus (who we will see more of in future books). There is a rival investigation involving the chief spy Anacrites, so the race is on to beat Anacrites to the truth and to catch a serial killer before the next festival when another woman is likely to be murdered.

It soon becomes clear that the body parts are entering Rome’s aqueduct system from the rivers outside of Rome. Falco spends a lot of time investigating those who live near the source of the aqueducts, looking for someone who regularly travels to Rome for the festivals.

It isn’t until a young lady associated with Helena’s family goes missing that Falco finally manages to identify the serial murderer. But, is he too late to save the latest victim?


This story showed a much more mature and sensible Falco. Maybe fatherhood has mellowed him. I enjoyed seeing the usual crowd in this book and I particularly liked the role of Petronius Longus in this one. I’m not sure if I like the new, sensible, subdued Falco. Maybe he’ll be back to his old carefree self in the next book – TWO FOR THE LIONS.

There was a lot of information in this book about the working of the Roman Aqueduct system, most of which was fascinating.


Book Published 1997


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