One Virgin Too Many

Once again Falco find himself up to his neck in dung – quite literally this time, particularly goose dung, in his new position of “honour” as Procurator of the Sacred Geese. In this novel, Falco delves into the world of Rome’s religious cults after he is visited by a young girl (grand-daughter of an ex Flamen Dialis) who claims somebody is trying to kill her. The girl has been entered into the state lottery to be a Vestal Virgin, which is a highly sought-after position, although most of Rome suspects the lottery is fixed, and that the grand-daughter of the ex Flamen will “win” the position! A few days later, Falco and Helena (and the baby) are having dinner with Helena’s parents, when Camillus Aelianus returns home shaken at discovering the dead body of a man in the Sacred Grove of the Arval Brethren – it appears to be a murder. Reluctantly, Falco finds himself dragged into doing a bit of detecting, aided by a new aristocratic and eager (if surly) partner, Camillus Aelianus! What dark secrets lie in the family of the ex Flamen, who would want to attempt to kill his grand-daughter, and was his family involved in the Sacred Grove murder? Meanwhile, Helena takes it upon herself to buy a new villa across the Tiber on Janiculan Hill – as usual, Falco is the last to know (although he suspects something was going on)! However, major repairs to the villa, as well as the distance to the centre of Rome, are the least of Falco’s worries when the young girl goes missing before the Vestal lottery takes place. The ex Flamen’s house is turned upside down, but the girl isn’t found anywhere… could she already be dead?

This is the novel where we see Queen Berenice, Titus Caesar’s frowned-upon mistress from Judea!

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