Last Act in Palmyra

Last Act in Palmyra is a 1994 historical mystery crime novel by Lindsey Davis and the sixth book of the Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries series. Set in Rome, Nabatea, and Palmyra, the novel stars Marcus Didius Falco, informer and imperial agent. The title refers to the hunt undertaken by Falco for a murderer, the last act of which takes place in Palmyra, as well as plays upon Falco's temporary employment as a playwright with a travelling theatre group.

Last Act in Palmyra
First edition
AuthorLindsey Davis
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesMarcus Didius Falco
GenreHistorical mystery crime novel
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages384 pp
Preceded byPoseidon's Gold 
Followed byTime to Depart 

Plot summary

In Last Act in Palmyra, Falco takes on a new spying mission for Vespasian to the east of the Empire. He also plans to investigate the disappearance of a young musician, Sophrona. Falco and Helena Justina travel to Petra, where they encounter a theatre group who have just lost their playwright due to drowning. Joining them, Falco attempts to fulfill his various investigations, whilst at the same time write his new play, The Spook Who Spoke.

Characters in "Last Act in Palmyra"

Main Characters

  • Anacrites - Imperial spy
  • Helena Justina - Daughter of the Senator Decimus Camillus Verus
  • Marcus Didius Falco - Informer and Imperial Agent from the Aventine.
  • Musa - Priest from Dushara
  • Sophrona - Musician, player of the water organ
  • Thalia - Snake dancer

The Theatre Company

  • Byrria - Actress
  • Chremes - Actor-manager
  • Congrio - Billposter
  • Davos - Actor
  • Grumio - Clown
  • Philocrates - Actor
  • Phrygia - Actress, wife of Chremes
  • Tranio - Clown

The Orchestra

  • Afrania - Tibia-player
  • Ione - Tambourinist
  • Plancina - Panpipe girl
  • Ribes - Lyre-player

Major themes

  • Several investigations, including a spying mission for the emperor, a disappearing musician, and the murder of a traveling playwright.
  • Developing relationship of Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina.
  • The history and culture of the Roman Middle East (namely Arabia Petraea and Roman Syria).

Allusions/references to other works

Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science

Release details

  • 1994, UK, Century Hardback (out of print)
  • 1995, UK, Arrow, Paperback ISBN 0-09-983180-5
  • 1995, UK, Magna, Large Print, ISBN 0-7505-0839-6
  • 1996, US, Mysterious Press, Hardback (out of print)
  • 1997, US, Mysterious Press, Paperback ISBN 0-446-40474-8
  • 2003, UK, Arrow, Paperback ISBN 0-09-945199-9 (as part of single-volume omnibus edition, Falco on the Loose, with Time to Depart and A Dying Light in Corduba)


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