October 25, 2004

The Body in the Bathhouse, by Lindsey Davis

It was just three-and-a-half years ago that I first made the acquaintance of Marcus Didius Falco, informer-for-hire and occasional agent for Emperor Vespasian. And you know how it is when you discover a new author--you start looking for excuses to visit every bookstore in town in hopes that they'll have some volume you've not yet devoured. By October of 2001 I'd read all eleven of the Falco books then available (you can find the reviews on our Lindsey Davis page). And then, sadly, I sat down to wait until the next book was published.

And here we are, precisely three years later, and finally, at long last, amazingly, I have a new Marcus Didius Falco book to review. What happened? Did Lindsey Davis take a sabbatical? Was she in a horrible accident? Did I simply grow tired of good old Marcus? In fact, the answer is "None of the above."

The plain and simple truth is, the publisher did me wrong. Yes, it's entirely the fault of Mysterious Press that the Foothills have been Falco-less for so long.

You know how it is when you walk into a bookstore and discover that there's a new book by a favorite author and you get excited and then you realize that it's a trade paperback and all the ones you've bought to date have been mass-market paperbacks and you really don't want to spend the extra money just to get a trade paperback that won't fit on the shelf with the others and so you decide to wait until the mass-marker edition comes out? And so you put the trade paperback down and try to erase it from your mind so that you won't pine unduly in the meantime.

You know how that is? Sure, you do. It's probably happened to you a dozen or more times.

But what if the book in question is never published as a mass-market paperback? What happens if the wily publisher discovers that Marco Didius Falco sells just as well--or better!--in trade format, and just goes on publishing new books in the series every so often, and only ever in trade format? And then hides them away with the hardcovers so that (not being one to buy murder mysteries in hardcover) you never see them again after their initial release?

What happens is you go for three years without reading any of them, that's what happens. Until one day you stumble upon them, lurking shamelessly in plain site with the hardcovers. And then you have to catch up.

That's what happens. And it's all the publishers fault.

(But what about the book, you ask? Oh, the book was great. I read it on the way home from New Orleans, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Vespasian sends Falco to Britain to see why a public building project is overrunning its budget. And for reasons too complex to go into here, he's accompanied by his wife Helena, his sister Maia, his two daughters, their ineffectual and snooty nursemaid, and Helena's two brothers-in-law. A foul time is had by all, especially by the older brother and the snooty nursemaid, the murderer is caught, and all ends happily. More or less.)

Posted by Will Duquette at October 25, 2004 07:02 PM

sigg said:

As you pointed out, one of the problems with the trade format is the extra size. I have reached (or to be more accurate, my wife has reached) the point where I need to throw out a book when I buy a new one. With the trades, I have to throw out two because the trade requires the extra room. It's hard enough to part with one book, let alone two.

Phil said:

I like trade paperbacks. I've thought about buying PD James' mysteries in trade, though I have some hard and mass-market varieties already. Trade has such a nice look.