Review

The Accusers

by Lindsey Davis



"Everyone always knows already that the dead man was a serial
seducer who lied to political colleagues, ran up hefty debts at a
brothel, deliberately farted in the Basilica, and was known by an
obscene name behind his back."


That quote numbers among many irreverent comments in THE ACCUSERS.
If you have yet to meet Marcus Didius Falco and his wife, Helena
Justina, you have a big treat in store. Lindsey Davis has created a
first-rate pair of sleuths defending justice in the debauched Rome
of the First Century. They have an outlook on life such that
problems can be taken in stride, but pleasures are to be savored:
"It was not often I had the beautiful pleasure of extortion from a
relative. Life was good for an hour."


In 75 A.D. accusers reaped a hefty fee for successful prosecution
of individuals they chose to bring charges against. Therefore,
fabricating a story, especially about a particularly unpopular
citizen, could --- and often did --- bring high rewards. Pursuit of
the truth didn't enter into the equation. One character quips,
"Trials are not decided by evidence but arguments." Except for the
blatant monetary incentive, it sounds much like the courts of
today.


Boasting clean togas, Falco and his associates pick up a case in
the murders court. Their client isn't the first one to be accused
of killing Gnaeus Rubirius Metellus. But someone seems to have
tried to put it over as a suicide, which just doesn't wash with the
accusers. Here's the rub: If Metellus did himself in, then his
family would be forgiven the debt owed to the accusers from a prior
corruption case. So proving he was murdered becomes a matter of
money for the two inscrutable prosecutors. The ancient Romans
demonstrate their decadence, greed, depravity and self-indulgence
--- but, due to Falco and his team, also their humanity.


Each day, Falco assembles his associates and divvies up the
investigative tasks. There are many interviews to be conducted,
lots of evidence to gather, truth to be sorted from lies. Their own
client, the dead man's son, is not forthcoming, refusing to offer
any explanation that might exonerate him. Obviously harboring a
secret, he remains tight-lipped while Falco and his boys
meticulously grill witnesses and chase leads. Meanwhile, Helena
Justina quietly hunts for clues with her own technique, which
involves using her feminine wiles and devious ways. At the end of
the day, they all compare notes over family dinner with their two
daughters and their dog Nux. Even the mothers-in-law get into the
act. Despite a few bumps in the road, they ferret out the
answers.


Just the cast of principal characters, described in a witty
two-page list at the beginning of the book, sets the humor of the
book --- and serves the double purpose of helping you keep track of
the couple dozen players with multiple long names. Full of murder,
mayhem and riotous corruption, THE ACCUSERS is a hedonistically
great read.


   












Reviewed by Kate Ayers on December 22, 2010

The Accusers
by Lindsey Davis

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 0446693294
  • ISBN-13: 9780446693295