Time to Depart

With a daring marketplace raid and a series of murders, someone stakes a claim to Rome’s crime empire after its “boss” Balbinus is deported. Marcus Didius Falco’s old army buddy Petro, who nabbed Balbinus, now has to find the perpetrators. Emperor Vespasian, who avoids giving the less desirable investigations to his own staff, asks Falco to work with Petro’s team on the investigation. Falco also receives a secret imperial assignment to watch for police corruption. Naturally Falco and his friend, both used to running their own shows, are going to clash.

The job takes the two men into some of the city’s seamier neighborhoods—filthy wineshops, the swamp around Ostia, jumbled shops dealing in fenced goods. Falco even manages to walk out of a brothel straight into the path of his niece and mother.

Meanwhile, Falco’s domestic life is not exactly tranquil. His beloved Helena Justina is pregnant. He is trying to rent an apartment to replace their fifth-floor walk-up. The search becomes urgent when goons find their home and almost beat up Helena. Then there is the baby that Falco finds in a dumpster and brings home, and the stray dog, Nux, who moves in.

This often funny chain of events turns serious when customs inspectors find the body of Linus, the undercover man Petro sent to make sure Balbinus went into exile. Suddenly all theories about the underworld war of succession are off. Worse, it means that someone within Petro’s handpicked team betrayed him—a fact the officer finds hard to accept when Falco points it out.

The case is finally solved amidst a wedding, a fire, and Falco’s harrowing escape from the burning building. Still unsolved is Helena’s pregnancy problem. Will Falco earn enough money to become equestrian and respectably marry her before the baby comes? Readers will have to wait for a sequel to find out.

TIME TO DEPART, the seventh in a popular series, is just as full of humor, chills, and colorful historical detail as its predecessors. Along with this, it offers a rare glimpse of the operations of imperial Rome’s vigiles, or city police.