"The first concern of an author is to do down his colleagues."
In the long, hot Roman summer of AD 74, Falco, private informer and spare-time poet, gives a reading for his family and friends. Things get out of hand, as usual. The event is taken over by Aurelius Chrysippus, a wealthy Greek banker and patron to a group of struggling writers, who offers to publish Falco's work. A visit to the Chrysippus scriptorium implicates Falco in a gruesome literary murder, so when commissioned to investigate, Falco is forced to accept.
Lindsey Davis' twelfth novel wittily explores Roman publishing and banking, taking us from the jealousies of authorship and the mire of patronage to the darker financial world, where default can have fatal consequences.
The setting is interesting and colourful, but it's read in a rather bland, characterless way - more BBC Newsreader of the last century at an elocution lesson than Falco of the Aventine, although the narration does warm up a wee bit as the tale goes on. Perhaps not the most convincing denouement but then Falco's "body in the library" story wouldn't be the classic 20s/30s "snobbery with violence" tale, would it?