The Third Nero – Lindsey Davis

FLAVIA Albia was facing up to wedded bliss at the end of her last murder case in ancient Rome.

But the gods weren’t looking kindly on the feisty thirtysomething private investigator – her sweetheart was hit by lightning on their wedding day.

Flavia’s bridegroom is recovering in bed, a shadow of his former self, for the bulk of this fifth outing in the hugely enjoyable successor series to the Falco novels.

Flavia herself is facing more danger than ever before, as she reluctantly gets involved in the politics of state under the iron rule of Emperor Domitian.

After despatching many of his rivals, the tyrant is away fighting a war, and his underlings want everything hunky-dory when he returns.

The problem is, there’s a pretender to the throne – a ‘false Nero’ who has emerged from the East claiming to be the notorious former emperor.

Flavia’s task initially appears simple – check out the truth of the claim – but as probes deeper she realises that everyone has secrets, old conspiracies are still active, and there’s a very dangerous power struggle going on.

In a web of lies, betrayal and espionage, more than one party wants Flavia dead.

Davis’s last novel Graveyard of the Hesperides was a terrific read, tense, witty and romantic, and this one, while not quite so gripping, still shows Lindsey Davis on cracking form.

David Knights