With this, the third novel in Davis’ series of mysteries set in the Roman empire and featuring professional “informer” Marcus Didius Falco, I became an unabashed fan. A library request for the next volume was delayed by the long holiday weekend, and as my impatience grew, I cleaned Kate’s Mystery Books out of their entire stock of Davis titles, even though the fourth volume was not among them.
Everything I said about Silver Pigs applies to Venus in Copper, and then some (I enjoyed Shadows in Bronze, too, although it didn’t impress me quite as strongly). The characters are wonderfully realized. Falco’s narrative voice is assured and incisive, and his helpmeet [trying to skirt spoilers…] is more than a match for him. The setting is so vividly drawn that I’ve had fanciful thoughts about a time machine in Davis’s closet with its coordinates set to Imperial Rome. Heck, I almost feel as if I’ve visited Imperial Rome. The plot elements are quite satisfyingly twisty (although once again, a Big Clue in the open seemed far more obvious to me than to the protagonist).
Moreover, while the tone isn’t broadly comic, it made me laugh out loud several times, and the mouth-watering descriptions of certain Roman sweetmeats instilled a craving that I’m still trying to figure out how best to satisfy. Finally, it’s more satisfying on a literary level than a great many mysteries, what with the foreshadowing, the symbolism, the external conflict mirroring internal conflict, and so forth.
Needs More Demons? No.