The Silver Pigs
By: Lindsey Davis
When Marcus Didius Falco, a Roman “informer” who has a nose for trouble that’s sharper than most, encounters Sosia Camillina in the Forum, he senses immediately all is not right with the pretty girl. She confesses to him that she is fleeing for her life, and Falco makes the rash decision to rescue her–a decision he will come to regret. For Sosia bears a heavy burden: as heavy as a pile of stolen Imperial ingots, in fact. Matters just get more complicated when Falco meets Helena Justina, a Senator’s daughter who is connected to the very same traitors he has sworn to expose. Soon Falco finds himself swept from the perilous back alleys of Ancient Rome to the silver mines of distant Britain–and up against a cabal of traitors with blood on their hands and no compunction whatsoever to do away with a snooping plebe like Falco….
I decided to check out this book because my mum has one of the Falco books on her shelf, See Delphi and Die. The lead protagonist, Marcus Didius Falco, sounded intriguing but I wanted to see him from the very beginning so I decided to check out the first book in the series first before reading the volume on my mum’s shelf. I’m so glad I did, this book was a riot.
My favourite part about this book has to be Falco himself. From the first page, I was completely drawn in:
“Some men are born lucky; others are called Didius Falco.”
How could you not laugh and warm up to the character? Didius Falco became a fast favourite of mine; he was witty, immensely laid-back for someone in his line of work, but also a person with quite a background. Underneath all of his wry comments and his sauntering about, he’s a good guy who sticks to his principles, protects those who need protection (as best as he can), doesn’t give up on a case and who cares for his family (even if they do drive him insane). I like that this novel was written in his POV because it really adds to the experience; if you plop him in the middle of our day and age, he would fit right in.
It was also fun meeting the other people in his life: his best friend Petro, who is a city police officer (by our standards), his mother (lol is all I can say), various family members (Falco has a lot of sisters, nephews and nieces), Lenia the laundress who lived at the main level of his apartment, Helena Justina (their bantering was interesting). Not to mention there were guest appearances by Titus Caesar and Emperor Vespasian. The characters involved in the case itself were interesting as well, covering various roles in the administration and politics of Rome. Despite of Falco’s laid-backness, you do get a sense of a rigid class system that governed Imperial Rome at the time of Vespasian’s rule.
The plot itself was interesting and a bit of a crash course on Roman politics, although it’s clear that it’s a story that is universal. The mystery sends Falco traveling to the edges of the Empire, which was pretty nifty, allowing the author to cover more ground about Imperial Rome during this time. Davis did a remarkable job researching on this period and adding details to life in this time; I learned quite a bit about Imperial Rome that I otherwise did not know before (i.e. how they really cleaned those togas back then ^_~).
Overall, this was a highly enjoyable read and a great start to a series. It had intrigue, intriguing characters, hilarious dialogue and a dose of romance in there. I highly recommend this novel for mystery lovers and historical fiction readers.