Summary and book reviews of The Accusers by Lindsey Davis

The Accusers

A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery Novel

by Lindsey Davis

The Accusers
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2004, 384 pages
    Oct 2004, 384 pages

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Book Summary

Marcus Didius Falco ('Sam Spade in a ratty toga') should have smelled a rat when employed to investigate the death of a rich Roman senator.  Now Falco stands before judge and jury to argue the case but the wheels of justice grind exceedingly fine and the machinations of the powerful are dangerous.

"Sam Spade in a ratty toga," proclaims the Cleveland Plain Dealer of Roman sleuth Marcus Didius Falco, the hero of Lindsey Davis's bestselling series who has strode through the Eternal City like a colossus of a P.I. In this riveting new adventure, however, Falco may make a fatal misstep as he enters the halls of Roman law and finds that juris prudentia is anything but prudent. It's rife with risk and deadly betrayals...


Justice may be blind. Yet in the case of a rich Roman senator named Rubirius Metellus who was convicted of corruption and then committed suicide, Marcus Didius Falco should have smelled a rat…and looked the other way.

The affair begins when a famous prosecutor asks Falco to look into Metellus's death. Newly returned from far-flung Londinium, Falco needs the business and doesn't question why he's been given this case. Perhaps after his lengthy hiatus in the provinces, he's forgotten how to swim with the sharks...

In the predatory world of Roman law, accusers collect a fee from successful prosecutions. It is a cutthroat business. Sometimes innocent men are convicted and their wealth confiscated. But Falco believes citizen Metellus was truly guilty and should have paid up. Instead the culprit took poison-and relieved his surviving family of paying his debt.

Then as Falco starts to investigate, he begins to suspect that Metellus may have had some help with his last meal. And if he actually was murdered, Falco must find out cui bono? Who benefits? Now, in a courtroom drama filled with chilling surprises, Falco stands before judge and jury to argue the case. For while the wheels of justice grind exceedingly fine, the machinations of the powerful are dangerous. And Falco may have played right into their hands...

Chapter I

I HAD BEEN an informer for over a decade when I finally learned what the job entailed.

There were no surprises. I knew how society viewed us: low-born hangers-on, upstarts too impatient for honest careers, or corrupt nobles. The lowest grade was proudly occupied by me, Marcus Didius Falco, son of the utterly plebeian rogue Didius Favonius, heir to nothing and possessing only nobodies for ancestors. My most famous colleagues worked in the senate and were themselves senators. In popular thought we were all parasites, bent on destroying respectable men.

I knew how it worked at street level-a hotchpotch of petty investigative jobs, all ill-paid and despised, a career that was often dangerous too. I was about to see the glorious truth of informing senatorial-style. In the late summer of the year that I returned with my family from my British trip, I worked with Paccius Africanus and Silius Italicus, two famous informers at the top of their trade; some of you may have heard of them....

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BookBrowse Review


This is the 15th book in the Marcus Didius Falco series. The year is 75 A.D. and the place is Rome. Falco (described by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as Sam Spade in a ratty toga) is back from Britain (A Body in the Bathhouse; the Jupiter Myth) and, in an effort to resume his career as an informer, ends up playing advocate in a messy legal dispute. The fun thing about these books is that while they all feature the same key characters they are not formulaic. For example, The Accusers is probably best described as a courtroom thriller but other books in the series have been written in the style of police procedurals, classic whodunnits and thriller-style adventures. Also, Davis manages to stage her mysteries against an apparently accurate and detailed historical backdrop without overwhelming the reader with information  

Media Reviews

Denver Rock Mountain News

Lindsey Davis's excellent and funny series [is] a cross between I, Claudius and Mystery!.

Publishers Weekly

Wry, cynical and principled, Falco makes the perfect guide to Davis's vividly realized ancient Rome.

Booklist - David Pitt

Many historical series go flat once the milieu becomes familiar, but this one continues to mix its history and its mystery in a pleasing blend.

Kirkus Reviews

As usual, Davis's sprightly narrative focuses on customs, history, and details of the Metellus and Falco households and takes its time unraveling the mystery.

Library Journal

Marcus Didius Falco (The Jupiter Myth) is back, cheeky as ever, this time matching his wits against two sleek lawyers intimately involved with the evident suicide of a Roman senator accused of corruption. Did he or didn't he? Of course, Falco uncovers the truth, though just barely; the ending is a surprise and surprisingly affecting. Meanwhile, the brothers of Falco's beloved Helen continue learning how hard the life of an informer can be and grow up just a little. Topnotch work in a topnotch series.

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