Sunday, December 8, 2013

Silver Pigs: Lindsey Davis



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.    
     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.
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.

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.

14 comments:

  1. I don't think I will attempt this author for fear of adding another series onto the list. I have a couple of Robert Harris books set in Ancient Rome that I will stick to. Not sure when they will be tackled - probably when I'm ancient myself!

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    1. Col, I have several Robert Harris books, but not the ones set in ancient Rome. So someday when you review them, I will see how you like them.

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  2. Fascinating, Tracy. I'm glad you liked it for it does seem like a good book. A PI in ancient Rome sounds original. I wonder if they'd centurions in plainclothes investigating crimes.

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    1. You are right, Prashant, this picture of Rome is fascinating. Lots of interesting facts.

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  3. I've had Silver Pigs in my pile forever. I'll get to it eventually. Thanks Tracy. Good to know you enjoyed it and thanks for the warning about the violence.

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    1. Keishon, I did like it and it was not what I expected. Don't know if I will want to read a whole 20 book series, but at least a couple more.

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  4. Tracy - Thanks for this nicely-done review. I've not read a Davis novel in such a long time; you'v reminded me that I ought to maybe do something about that. I ought to put one of them in the spotlight too...

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    1. Margot, one of this series would be great for a spotlight post.

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  5. Thanks TracyK - I did listen to a BBC radio adaptation of this one many years ago and liked it quite a bit (even if to my ears they mispronounce all the Latin names ...)

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    1. Sergio, what a bummer, mispronouncing the names. I wonder how they do in audio books... not that I have ever listened to one. I can see that this series would be good as an audio experience... with the humor.

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  6. I read this one years ago, and just took it off my shelf to look at it recently - I remembered nothing about it, and wondered if I should re-read. Now your review seems like a message to me to do so...

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    1. Moira, I did enjoy it. I have so many more to read in the series, I am sure I will skip around after the first few.

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  7. Although I went of later books, I really like this one. I think it was a series that went on too long but Davis is now back in her stride with a new series featuring Falco's daughter.

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    1. Sarah, I have experienced that same thing with some series I really liked. After I read a few more of these, I may jump to the new series and try it.

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