There is no writer about ancient Rome during the NT period who is more fun to read than Lindsey Davis. Unfortunately, she chose to retire her very best character Marcus Didius Falco, who, truth be told, was getting a little long in the tooth, as they say. He has been succeeded by his adopted daughter Flavia Alba as sleuth extraordinaire, and has not appeared ‘on stage’, which is to say, in the actual narrative of the Alba novels, which are also enjoyable (see the reviews on this blog). But finally, we do run across Mssr. Falco once again in the short story (86 pages, available very cheaply on Kindle) ‘The Spook who Spoke– Again’. The title is a reference to a play that Falco wrote in the novel ‘Last Act in Palmyra’ entitled ‘The Spook that Spoke’. This novella involves a production of that play, only this time in Rome, and put on by Thalia’s troop of actors. Thalia, is an animal tamer with a remarkable act she does with a Python, her ‘main squeeze’ so to speak, though she has had various liasons with men en route as she has wandered about the world with her traveling circus. One such liason was with the Father of Falco, no less, Geminus by name. So it was that Falco, when Geminus expired leaving behind an unborn offspring, had adopted the little boy who is named Marcus Didius Alexander Postumus, the last bit being the origin of the word posthumous. In its original context it refers to a person who is born after his father has expired.
This story is vintage Davis, and is even more humorous as it is told through the eyes of Postumus, who clearly has much to learn, and creates havoc, mostly unintentionally, wherever he goes. No wonder Falco and his wife Helena Justina were prepared to let him go live with his biological Mom…..
I do wish we had more of this kind of historical fiction, or better said hysterical fiction…. but we must be content that once again the Spook which haunted Palmyra, cleared his wrote and spoke…. again.