Illegally Dead

Illegally Dead by David Wishart. Part of the reason I wanted to get In at the Death through ILL was that I knew the next book in the series was already on its way. Despite being from the same series, the two are surprisingly different. Whereas the first is set entirely in Rome and features a complicated plot and imperial conspiracy, the current book is set in small-town Castrimoenium (also the site for A Vote for Murder, one of the better books in the series) and is essentially a cozy, “everyone-knows-everyone-else” mystery. Wise-cracking Marcus Corvinus responds to a plea from his adopted daughter, Marilla, to leave the capital during the early days of Caligula’s reign and investigate the possible poisoning of a local lawyer whose recent antagonistic behavior due to his deteriorating mental condition has created several possible suspects. Corvinus brings most of his household with him: his wife Perilla, who tries to keep his swearing to a minimum as she subtly steers the direction of his investigations, his major-domo Bathyllus and his talented chef Meton. Perilla is much less prominent in this book compared to the previous one, while Meton is suspected of seducing a freewoman in town. New to the cast is Clarus, a young doctor in town who brings a bit of forensic science to the case and who appears likely to be a recurring character as he is engaged to Marilla. The plot continually twists with several additional dead bodies appearing at regular intervals. If you can get past the fact that a low-level aristocrat like Corvinus addresses everyone as “pal” or “princess” or “sunshine” like some hard-boiled detective from the 1940s, then you’ll enjoy this otherwise well-written and well-paced series.

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