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See Delphi And Die (2006)

See Delphi and Die (2006)
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3.95 of 5 Votes: 2
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009944528X (ISBN13: 9780099445289)
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See Delphi And Die (2006)
See Delphi And Die (2006)

About book: The mystery portion of See Delphi and Die is essentially telegraphed fairly early in the narrative. Character is character and character will out. Yet, there are enough “red herrings” and unlikable characters throughout the novel that even when one senses the eventually exposed villain, the trip is worth taking. In fact, the trip is probably more worth taking than the peregrination through Greece that M.Didius Falco, wife, and nephews undertake. I’m sure that even during Vespasian’s reign there was much to see in Greece and, by having the informer (ie. “detective”) and his party following in the wake of a “tour group,” Davis takes the opportunity to describe some of the shrines and great buildings (as well as some of the scoundrels and petty tyrants/societies/priesthoods which would have surrounded such). Perhaps the biggest surprise in See Delphi and Die is not the exposition of the mystery (or mysteries) of the narrative, but the fact that it is neither Falco’s diligent 1st century “gumshoeing” that actually solves the issue(s) but a fortuitous provision of the vital puzzle piece from one of the most unlikely sources in the party. This doesn’t, of course, mean that Falco was either ineffective or negligent in his duties (even if he did manage to imply more interest on Caesar Vespasian’s part that was strictly justified in order to secure help with expenses and cooperation from the provincial authorities). It also doesn’t suggest that neither Falco nor the beautiful and wise Helena Justina were never in any danger. No noir detective faces more imminent threats than Falco, in spite of the lack of a “gat” in the ancient world.As usual, Davis not only provides a mystery, but a superb historical background. For those who are apt to confuse the customs of the modern Olympics with those of the ancient games and those who are unaware of Nero’s travesty in using his influence to rig the games in his favor, Davis reminds us of the conspicuous consumption used to curry Zeus’ favor in exorbitant sacrifices, the all-male attendance at games and feasts, and the confusion in the calendar following Nero’s intrusive competition in the games. I learned two new terms (and I read some Greek) in kottabos (which I should have known, but…alas) and pankration (sometimes transliterated differently, but a term anyone familiar with history should have known—including me). The former, if you are in my leaking boat, was a competition performed with un-decanted wine. In kottabos, one flicks the sediment from the wine toward a target in the center of the banquet room. Obviously, one needs to be fairly far along in the inebriation process for that to be interesting. The latter, of course, is a particularly brutal style of fighting that was part of the original competition and, of course, it pays a role in both one of the main threats to Falco and solving the crime.So, I believe fans of the series of historical mysteries by Lindsey Davis will enjoy See Delphi and Die as much as any of her previous works. It is entertaining, even if it isn’t as mysterious as some of the others.

Seventeenth in the series (which I’m reading in order) and this is one of the best of the lot. They are all worth reading if you like a leisurely educational review of first century Roman culture mixed into the detective murder mystery genre and recounted by a former rapscallion (now family man) narrator, Falco, who has some admittedly modern sensibilities (thus making him a more useful interlocutor and tour guide on these trips to the past).This installment involves a series of murders befalling Roman participants on group tours with Seven Sights Travel on jaunts taken to see the wonders and glories of Greece, so it’s appealing for several reasons. If you love to travel it’s fun to see what first century Romans endured on their packaged, planned vacations. And most fans of ancient Rome are likely to be interested in the geography, history, and culture of Greece as well, so it’s instructive for Davis to convey how that land was faring under Roman rule in the first century and the manner in which Romans of that period might have judged or treated Greek culture—some of the nuances of what they appropriated and what they disdained. Helena Justina and Falco leave the little ones at home this trip, bringing along two adolescent boy nephews, Albia their ingénue ward they picked up in Britain, and Glaucus, a strapping young athlete eager to visit Olympia and ready to provide some bodyguard muscle, as well as Nux the dog, who again serves a useful function in advancing the narrative while helping us identify with this family by the way they all treat their beloved pet. There’s so much packed into this novel: it’s rich in summaries of Greek myths, descriptions of famous monuments and statues, explanations of how oracles worked, and reviews of sports practices and Olympic procedures, while progressing subplots about future profession and possible romance for Helena’s brother Aulus to further develop in subsequent installments in the series—and there’s a delicious ending with an unforgettable feast hosted by a lauded Greek philosopher that you have to read the entire book yourself to properly savor.
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Reviews
Colin
People have been recommending Lindsey Davis' novels to me for years, so I gave this one a shot (I got it as a bargain at B&N). It was really good! Davis as a historian gets some of the flavor of ancient Rome a bit muddled, I think, but it doesn't matter - it's still well done! And it was very pleasurable - I figured it out before the end, which is part of the pleasure of a good mystery to me, but it still had me hooked to the last page! I'll be reading more of the adventures of Marcus Didius Falco!
Nancy
Falco with Helena and a few other family members in tow set out for Greece to check up on Falco's brother-in-law, Aulus. Aulus is supposed to be studying law in Athens, but he has become side-tracked by the violent murder of a young woman touring the Roman province with her new husband in Olympia, the first stop on the itinerary of the Seven Sights Travel company, which is shuttling the newlyweds as well as an assortment of off-beat Roman characters around the glory that was once Greece. They stop at Olympia, Corinth, Delphi, and the strange oracle of Trophonios at Lebadeia before finally arriving in Athens. Davis treats us to a travelogue of Roman-era Greece, playing tour guide even as she lampoons the breed. One of the most enjoyable installments in a while.
Ed
I really struggled to stay interested in this story. I have usually enjoyed Lindsay Davis' Marcus Didius Falco books but this one just did not grab me. Perhaps since this is #17 in the series, Davis has lost some of her own freshness.In this book, Davis takes the opportunity to make fun of the travel industry, though I seriously doubt there was one in Falco's time. Falco's wife, Helena Justina, has a somewhat egotistical brother who is off to Athens to study law and is doing some touring under the auspices of a fly-by-night travel firm. While traveling to Athens, he gets involved in the suspicious battering death, in the city of Olympia, of a young woman, recently married and on a honeymoon travel tour. Aulus and the groom, whom he befriends, try to solve the crime arousing his mother's suspicion that he will never make it to Athens. Pressured by his mother-in-law and because Helena Justina has always wanted to visit Greece, Marcus and an entire entourage of two unruly infants, two trouble seeking nephews, their teenage foster daughter, and the son of Marcus’ personal trainer, head out across the Aegean Sea.The Falco entourage meets up with the tourist group at Olympia where they have been held because of the tragedy. The rest of the story documents Falco doing his "informer" thing trying to figure out who the murderer is as the group moves to other sites in Greece. True to his nature he puts himself in dangerous situations and leans on his wife when he gets stuck. He does eventually solve the original crime plus an earlier murder at Olympia, a murder made to look like an accident and the slaying of the groom. So what's the problem? The mystery of who did it is not much of a mystery. There's too much exposition and too little action. The sub-plots are uninteresting. Lastly, some of the characters are more stereotypes than real.No one can fault Davis' research and the description of the Greek tourist sites, particularly Delphi, are entertaining and educational. I just found myself wishing the story would move more quickly to its inevitable climax. I will continue to read other books in the series hoping they are more interesting than this one.
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