Review of A Desperate Undertaking by Lindsey Davis – recently published

A bit disappointing…

I have been a big fan of Lindsey Davis’ original Falco series and spin-off Flavia Albia books for years.   I’ve enjoyed Falco’s snark, Helena Justina’s class, Falco and Helena Justina’s odd and happy partnership, Falco’s odder and somewhat hapless family, Helena Justina’s almost as hapless brothers, Flavia Albia’s own style of snark, etc. etc. etc.    But unfortunately, I had a hard time enjoying the latest Flavia Albia book, A Desperate Undertaking.  

Undertaking starts off as a fairly standard Flavia Albia case, albeit one that she has poached from her father while he and the rest of the family are off in Ostia.   Rather quickly, however, we get hints that all is not what it seems, and that the past may be coming back to haunt her.   But it seems to be Falco’s past, not hers…  

A series of gruesome murders follows, all of which seem to be linked to various myths and dramas – Pasiphae, Oedipus Rex, Orpheus, Jason, and others.   So Flavia Albia has to figure out what is going on, and how to stop the killings.  All of which is well and good, but somehow this was all just a little too much: too many deaths, too many allusions to the past, and too much unpleasantness.   We still have Flavia Albia’s trademark quick, sharp wit and investigative chops to enjoy – but they were hard to appreciate in the midst of everything else.   I’ve never had problems finishing one of Davis’ books before, and in fact, have re-read most of them, but I had a hard time finishing this one.   

In the end, I’m not going to give up on the series, and I very much hope that Davis reverts to form in Flavia Albia’s next outing.   And, as mentioned above, there were enough familiar elements that I’m still glad I read A Desperate Undertaking.   But it was a close thing, and that means a rare three-star review from me.     

And finally, my thanks to the appropriately named publisher 😀, Minotaur Books, and to NetGalley for my review copy!

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