The Bottom Line
Because the 18th in the Falco series is set amid Saturnalia revelry, Saturnalia is an especially entertaining work of historical fiction featuring the informer Falco and his eccentric, extended family. While it is a murder mystery, and includes the solution to a puzzling decapitation, this is more the frame than the central plot. Watch out for the root vegetables!
- Non-formulaic mystery plot
- Saturnalia merriment makes the story especially entertaining
- Lindsey Davis' characters are, as usual, wonderful
- Lindsey Davis' attempt at a cast of characters is incomplete and hard to use
- Chief Spy Anacrites and Informer Falco are in a race to retrieve a missing prisoner.
- The prisoner, a priestess, has contracted a serious fever while in Rome.
- The family of her warden is composed of hypochondriacs served by doctors from all the competing medical schools.
- Cataract surgery is performed and trepanning discussed as a treatment option.
- Lindsey Davis creates a exciting picture of what could have happened at Saturnalia.
- A spooky ghost flits about a cemetery and as a holiday entertainer.
- This and all historical fiction should not be taken as presenting a literally accurate historical tableau.
- Hysterical vegetable prank.