I first met Marcus Didius Falco in Britain in AD 70. Well, I think he started in Rome, and then he came to Britain and uncovered some dastardly goings-on in the silver mines, thus bringing himself to the welcome attention of the Emperor. He also met a Senator’s daughter, Helena Justina, who was such a thorn in his side for many adventures that he more or less married her. Not bad for a plebian informer.
To say I am addicted to Falco is untrue. I have let him meander on in his own way for several years, testament to which I am only on number 17 in the series. I read #15, The Accusers and 16, Scandal Takes a Holiday, during my Tackle TBR Readathon in September, and added The Falco Companion to my wishlist (hoping my brother might buy it for me for Christmas). If you haven’t read any of this series yet, start with The Silver Pigs. You won’t regret it!
The AccusersLindsey Davis
Falco steps out of his comfort zone in this book, since he gets embroiled in the legal niceties (or not) of Roman justice. A combination of a client he’d rather not have being rooked by a client he’d quite like to have, who then dies, ostentatiously unsuspiciously, raises Falco’s suspicions. As usual, his nose doesn’t fail him, although it leads him up a few blind alleys, and almost into disaster. Fortunately his partners (Helena Justina and her brothers) are there to help and take the fall for him respectively.
This is a really fascinating look at the details of Roman life, full of festivals, funerals and long cons as well as speeches in front of disinterested judges. It’s not a book to start the series with, unless you absolutely adore courtroom dramas. But as part of the series it is excellent, as always, and shows us a side of Rome we probably didn’t know was there. The legal issues surrounding inheritance are particularly draconian, and just be thankful your solicitor doesn’t have to advise you that the best way out of your troubles is to commit suicide so your wife and family can retain your wealth!
Scandal Takes a HolidayLindsey Davis
In some ways we are back on normal Falco territory in this one, since he’s been hired to smell out a rat and is pursuing it all the way to Ostia, the Roman port. Luckily for him, his best friend Petro is willing to support him, especially with his vigiles (local police/firefighters) soon to be stationed there. It isn’t long before the whole family, and that includes half his sisters and their families, turn up for a holiday while Falco carries on investigating, getting beaten up, kidnapped and generally following the same path as the missing person and several others who have been hushed up in extortion rackets recently.
This is where reading on a Kindle doesn’t help so much, since referring to the map of Ostia would be useful for most of the book. But it doesn’t stop me feeling I’m with him down smelly dusty lanes, dodging between crumbling buildings and avoiding the putrescence of a busy port. We also learn more of Roman funeral customs, other communities on the ancient Mediterranean coastline, and a lot about pirates, sorry, ex-pirates! I’m not the only one with them in my books, then!