Ancient Rome’s answer to Columbo takes a road trip to Greece in See Delphi and Die by Lindsey Davis, read by Christian Rodska, and reviewed by Star Lawrence
Sure, you would like to swan over to Greece and ruminate among the ruins, but did you know Romans a la 76 AD also joined organized tours and traipsed about ogling the sights that had already been created up to that date?
In this tongue-in-cheek detective yarn, one of a popular franchise, the snark-in-charge is Marcus Didius Falco, an emissary of the Emperor Vespasian. Falco gets involved in solving the murders of two young women who had taken Seven Sights Tour Company trips to Greece. He speaks a wry Cockney-tinged English, not Latin. He wears a cloak not a raincoat and is no loner, dragging along an entourage consisting of his diplomatic wife Helene and some nephews, a freed slave woman, and even his dog, who though of the nondiscriminating tastes typical of canines, does disdain some of the disgusting pits the tour company books them into. At the better places, Falco quips, the bedbugs went to charm school.
Falco is, by turns, very droll and then agog at the fabulous sights our ancients, his contemporaries, had already created. Man, the temples and oracles were lousy on the ground in those days! Playing good Roman/bad Roman with his wife, Falco tries to get the impressions of others on the tour with one of the young women. Instead, the tour participants give him an earful about the tour company’s arrangements, at one point the women outraged that they had to go to some poetry event. The poets “were thick as midges” and spouted bad odes, they grumped.
See Delphi & Die is funny. Humans are humans, I guess, no matter which millennium. There is one “tourist trap” where sick people can sleep in a town near some sacred site , while dogs and snakes circulate among the cots. If you dream of a dog or snake licking you, you get better. The man relating this tale said he went it one better and got bitten by one of the dogs--but a snake must have licked it, he notes, because it cleared up. They all laugh sheepishly. Won’t be seeing those drachmas again.
In this course of these travels and travails, of course, more people die, one falling off a cliff. The malefactor kicked Falco’s dog first, which caused me great consternation. Any book with a dog—I am in!
The narrator Christian Rodska does not pretend to be Italian or speak Latin, but his little mumbled asides are choice, along the lines of early versions of “Yeah, sure, I bet” or one I particularly liked: “Irony is so useful.”
Anyhow—listen to See Delphi and Die and if a snake licks you, you are going to “have a nice day.” Assuming you live to see it.
Star Lawrence owns the health humor site Health’s Ass at http://healthsass.blogspot.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her reviews also appear on Book Grrl.