Description of the book at MacMillan's website:
The Silver Pigs is the classic novel which introduced readers around the world to Marcus Didius Falco, a private informer with a knack for trouble, a tendency for bad luck, and a frequently incovenient drive for justice.This series is a detective story in ancient Rome. Maybe this description put me off reading it for so long. Ancient Rome isn't a time period I am particularly interested in and I cannot picture a PI in Rome. I have had my hardback edition for six years, and before that had a beat up paperback that sat unread for years.
When Marcus Didius Falco encounters the young and very pretty Sosia Camillina in the Forum, he senses immediately that there is something amiss. When she confesses that she is fleeing for her life, Falco offers to help her and, in doing so, he gets himself mixed up in a deadly plot involving stolen ingots, dangerous and dark political machinations, and, most hazardous of all, one Helena Justina, a brash, indominable senator's daughter connected to the very traitors that Falco has sworn to expose.
Marcus Didius Falco describes himself as a "private informer." This story takes place when Vespasian Augustus is Emperor of Rome. Books like this just emphasize how little I know about history and geography, but they also help supplement my meager knowledge, and I appreciate that.
This book has a huge cast of characters, and I did have some difficulty keeping up with who was who. In the course of this case that Didius Falco gets involved in, he meets a patrician family in Rome, and travels to Britain, where more of the family is living, to investigate. He has a large extended family of his own, at a much lower level. At least in the edition I read, there were maps and a Dramatis Personae at the beginning to help with names and places.
The book definitely gives the reader a picture of the classes in Rome and the dangers of living in Rome at the time. Although this is a story told with humor and wit (by Falco himself), it surprisingly had plenty of violence and death. There is corruption at every level, but that was not surprising. I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. I have two more early books in the series and I will read those to see if Falco and his cases and travels continue to entertain me.
On the back cover of the edition I read (US first edition, hardback) there is a quote from Ellis Peters, author of the Brother Cadfael mystery series, who stated that she had never until that time given a quotation for any novel.
It has everything: mystery, pace, wit, fascinating scholarship, and above all, two protagonists for whom, by the end, I feel genuine affection, and want to meet again.I offer some other looks at the Marcus Didius Falco mysteries. If you are like me and don't want to know much about the story before reading it, don't read these. On the other hand, the series has been going a loooong time and most people already know more about this series. (I didn't.)
This post at Ex Libris Reviews gives an overview of the series.
Another post at Ex Libris reviews discusses The Silver Pigs and the next two books.
At Historical Tapestry, a review of The Silver Pigs.
The author's site lists all the books of the series in order here and has comments on whether or not to read them in order. There is also a new series started in 2013, called the Albia series. The heroine is Falco’s adopted daughter, Flavia Albia.
NOTE: The edition of this book that I read shows the title as Silver Pigs. Yet at the author's site and the current publisher site, the title is The Silver Pigs. Don't know why it changed but there it is.