I think the plot of Lindsey Davis’s Venus in Copper is genuinely tighter than that of Shadows in Bronze; it’s not just that I was sleepy and uncritical today, since usually when I’m sleepy I have less patience for slow books—they don’t do as good a job at keeping me awake. This book picks up immediately after Shadows, but its plot mostly stands alone. Falco is hired by two women; they and their husbands share a household with a third man, who’s just become betrothed to a woman who’s buried three husbands and profited each time she did so. They want him to find out her price for leaving, but her betrothed dies of poison—before the wedding.
Falco sticks with the case even after his clients want him to go away, feeling an obligation. Meanwhile, he’s got a larceny charge hanging over his head, a new apartment to furnish, a great big turbot to cook . . . oh, and there’s Helena Justina, of course.
The plot is not far from being over the top, but at least it’s not insubstantial. I deeply disapprove of what happens with the woman Falco’s hired to investigate, but other than that, I enjoyed it. There’s a lot of Helena Justina—she gets to question a witness for Falco, and is competent as would be expected—and the scene where Falco cooks the turbot is pretty funny.