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You think you have problems with remodeling contractors. Imagine what fixing up your house would have been like in Ancient Rome. Marcus Didius Falco, Informer extraordinaire (Informer is an Ancient Roman term for Private Eye), is experiencing this peculiar headache when he swaps houses with his father and decides to renovate a few things. Unfortunately, days after the contractors leave, a strange smell begins to emanate from the bathhouse. After enlisting his father to help dig up the tile, they make the unpleasant discovery of a half-rotted corpse. The corpse and the fact that Falco’s sister, Maia, is being stalked by her ex-boyfriend (Falco’s old enemy Anacrites) sends Falco to the edge…of the Roman Empire.
Upon his arrival in Britain, Falco plans to kill three birds with one stone: resolve the problems slowing down a building project for the emperor, solve the mystery of the corpse rotting under his bathhouse floor, and keep his sister safe.
A Body in the Bathhouse is a neat combination of history and mystery: Sam Spade in Ancient Rome kicking butt and taking names. The best parts are when Falco unleashes his rapier wit on some unsuspecting fellow who doesn’t know how fast his tongue can wag. I wish I could think this fast on my feet and come up with things as fast as Falco does, or even his wife, for that matter. Touches of realism that are imbedded in the story as well. Falco can’t do everything he wishes, even when he really wants to or needs to. He must wait, plot, and scheme and then come out swinging when an opportunity presents itself. This is the way things must have actually been in Ancient Rome with all of the political intrigue and quests for power. Lindsey Davis taps into this obvious point and subtly weaves it into her story with a master's deft touch.
I wouldn’t change a single thing in this story. This book feels so real, as if one could pull out the encyclopedia and research the finer details. (You can actually; many characters in this story were real people.) The colors, smells, and sights of the past are brought vividly to life before the reader’s eyes. Yet one is reminded that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Backstabbing, conniving, viciousness, and petty vengeful acts are still here and maybe even fine tuned a bit more than they were in Ancient Rome, though I doubt it.
A Body in the Bathhouse is for those who love to follow what is going on in current politics, for those who love to get caught up in the rough and tumble world of the private eye, and for lovers of a good mystery, with tons of fast-paced action and twists and turns sharp enough to put out your eye if you hold the book too close. I recommend getting this book as soon as possible, and the other books in the Falco series. They are well worth it.