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Poseidon's Gold
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Davis (The Iron Hand of Mars) introduces a bright new figure in the brisk fifth novel in her series starring Marcus Didius Falco, free-lance ``informer'' in Rome during the first century A.D. Falco's dad, Geminus, who abandoned his family when Falco was a youngster, becomes his estranged son's unwelcome partner in an effort to relieve the family of a serious debt incurred by Falco's brother Festus, who died while serving in the army. Before his death, Festus had masterminded a scheme to sell a statue of Poseidon by the famed Phidias, involving fellow soldiers in a syndicate to buy the statue from its Greek owners. After the Poseidon was apparently lost at sea, a rude centurion shows up to insist that the syndicate be reimbursed. He and Falco fight in public, and later, when the soldier is stabbed to death, Falco is prime suspect. The intricate plot places Falco's highborn lover, Helena Justina, in jeopardy as she is also charged in the murder. To clear himself and Helena, Falco is forced to team up with his art-auctioneer father, a most appealing rogue, and come to grips with myths and facts of his family's personal history. Davis offers a vividly realized Imperial Rome-noisy, dense and dangerous. (Oct.)

YA‘This entertaining series continues as Falco is challenged to locate both the art treasure hidden by his deceased brother as well as to clear his own name from a murder charge. His father, an auctioneer of (sometimes fine) art, and Helena, his fiancee, are able assistants. The first-person narrative immediately draws readers into the story. Falco's dry wit surfaces with puns and satirical asides, and the conversations are especially realistic‘often with half sentences. Details of Roman art, architecture, military, etc. appear throughout. Although the sleuthing progresses logically and in a step-by-step fashion, the vocabulary is fairly difficult. The family tree, list of characters, and map of Imperial Rome are helpful additions to understanding this delightful romp into the past.‘Claudia Moore, W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA

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