Last Act in Palmyra

Plot Summary

Thalia has lost an expensively trained water-organist; then Anacrites, the devious Chief Spy, makes his most dangerous appearance, this time persuading Falco to travel to Nabataea – preceded by a friendly message that the dwellers in Petra might like to peg out the Roman adventurer for the crows. Discovering the body of a dead playwright on the High Place offers a chance to dump the official mission and look for Thalia’s missing musician instead. Falco and the indomitable Helena join a seedy group of theatrical players for a jaunt around the Decapolis cities that eventually leads to Palmyra at the crossroads of the eastern and western trade routes. It would be a holiday – but for the scorpions, evangelists, perpetrators of human sacrifice, drought, plague, and constant reminders that they have a murderer in their midst. Undaunted, Falco takes up his stylus and writes the Plautian prototype for ‘Hamlet’ – though a donkey, a python and the threat of a riot conspire to ruin his first night.
This is the one where Oliver, my editor, helpfully provided the original for the camel joke – causing two gynaecologists to write and complain that the language had coarsened, no doubt at the behest of some unscrupulous editor …

Research Notes: Thanks to Helen for wanting to go to Syria, London Zoo Reptile House for the lowdown on snakes, and Bill Tyson for scorpion bite facts.

Reviews

The Falco novels get better – more original, more amusing, more daring – with every run out – Oxford Times

Hilariously good writing – The Washington Post

Last Act in Palmyra

 

‘“Marcus Didius has things on his mind.”
In a crisis Helena made no comment about the emergency. Her eyes met mine. I gave her the smile of a helpless man in the hands of a very beautiful nurse.’

Chosen by readers, Rosina and George Harter