A body falls from the Tarpeian Rock, a looming structure that overlooks the ancient Roman Forum. People assume it’s a suicide, but a woman insists she saw someone push the vitcim. When an investigation is called for, Flavia Alba is ready to help. A Capitol Death is a traditional whodunit set in ancient times, but it feels remarkably fresh.
Author Lindsey Davis (Pandora’s Boy) balances grit and frivolity with ease. Flavia feels like the love child of Philip Marlowe and Carrie Bradshaw—she’s on the case, observing and reporting with care, but keeps a running line of saucy commentary on everyone throughout. This death would hardly raise a fuss were it not for the Imperial Triumphs, a sort of war parade/street fair hybrid set to take place. The dead man organized the entire affair and made plenty of enemies in the process, on top of being widely disliked in general. Flavia researches the case and then comes home to the drama of her home, still under construction, with ever-changing staff and their own drama. Stolen moments with her husband, and their snappy repartee, are sweet side trips.
Her childhood as a British orphan gives Flavia an acute awareness of class and difference. She can gently mold herself to fit in almost any situation and draw people into her confidence. The story builds with numerous twists toward a thrilling conclusion, but much of the pleasure comes from the deep, realistic world Davis has created and the people who inhabit it.