Latest in the Falco series. Beset by family problems, Falco is almost pleased to be called in to investigate a gruesome murder. But when his old antagonist Anacrites takes the case from him, things start to slide downhill.
I've always enjoyed the Falco books, and there was a lot to enjoy in this one too, but there was a fair bit to criticise too, including the ending, which isn't so much an ending as a stop. That though, is something that previous Falco books have also suffered from and while it's a bit annoying, it's not my major issue with the book, which is where Davis takes Falco's character.
I'm going to put the rest of this under a cut as there will be absolutely enormous spoilers. Seriously, if you plan on reading the book, don't click on the cut.
Firstly, there's the capture and interrogation of one of Anacrites' agents. Falco and Petronius grab the chap, torture him and then, when they've learned all they can from him, have him consigned to certain death in the mines to get rid of him. Now, it turns out later that this chap is guilty of complicity and possibly even participation in a string of killings going back decades. But - and this is important - Falco and Petronius do not know this before they sign his death warrant. This is not the behaviour I expect from the characters I've come to know and love. Falco might be granted a little leeway as he's still grieving for his father and his baby son, but even that isn't enough to excuse his actions here and Petronius has no such excuse.
Later they allow a terrified slave to be taken away by the Prastorian guard, knowing he'll be killed. Admittedly there isn't an awful lot they could do to stop it, but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
And then the last bit. Having discovered the truth about Anacrites' involvement in the killings and decided there's no way to get official justice, Falco and Petronius lure him into an alleyway, kill him and dump him in the sewers. This is not only morally reprehensible, but it seems out of character for Falco in his dealings with Anacrites - to me it smacks of the author having grown tired of the character and disposing of him summarily in fit of pique. From the past books, Falco (and especially Helena, who apparently agreed to the murder) should have been able to come up with a much more elegant plan to get rid of Anacrites - and one that wasn't so risky as actually killing the man himself.
I hope there will be some fallout from this in the next book, or I shall have to conclude that this series which I've loved is losing the plot :-(