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4.4 out of 5 stars47
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 18 July 2010
I just love this book. I own all of Lindsey Davis's books. This is my favourite by far. The 4th of the Falco novels, this one begins with a journey with such atmosphere I can join in with the trek. Having the book read to one, rather than having to read, allows the eyes to close, the lights to dim and one is transported to the realm of the author. Without having to constantly drag the brain back and forth from novel to the print, the 1st century come a deal closer. The imagery of the Celtic world constantly rubbing against the rule of Rome, is so much more exciting than the friction of paper rubbing the finger tips.

As readers of Lindsey Davis will know, there is always more than one sub-plot beneath the main story. This book will not disappoint. The author's keen interest in Roman archaeology ensures that there is a maximum of up to date detail included in the story as usual. With the her usual writing skill she weaves the plot to encompass the very latest discoveries of Roman technology, buildings, and artefacts.

It is as though every time a dig reveals a new glimpse back into the Roman era, Ms Davis readers know that Marcus Didius will be sent to incorporate the place or find into his travels.

If you have never heard of Roman MDF then you could do far worse than to let Donal Donnelly read this story to you. With more twists than a serpentine bracket, nearly as many plots as a small estate, and almost as many angles as there are Celts in the story, you could be dying to read the follow up book just like I was.
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on 3 February 2008
In this, the fourth Falco to get the BBC dramatization treatment, the series is really starting to gel.

The Emperor Vespasian sends Falco to Germany to solve several seemingly impossible problems.

Rebellious legions, missing legates, murderous warriors and a beautiful priestess all have their parts to play in the story.

Falco even inadvertently stumbles across the site of the infamous massacre in the Teutoberger Forest, when three entire Roman legions were lost during the reign of Augustus. These scenes are memorably creepy and capture the atmosphere of Tacitus' historical account of the disaster.

`The Iron Hand of Mars' introduces some intriguing characters, such as Xanthus, a flamboyant barber and Dubnus, a peddler whose wares are even more dubious than their seller. Fortunately for Falco, some old friends from earlier in the series turn up to extricate him from the tight corners he gets himself into.

Anton Lesser (as Falco) and Anna Madeley (as Helena) make an excellent leading pair. The supporting cast, including the regulars like Titus, Vespasian, Petro and Justinus, contribute admirably to the drama.

The exotic setting is well exploited by the producers. They should also be praised for helping the listener to differentiate easily between characters from various parts of the Roman Empire - and the hostile areas on its borders.

One can only hope that the next in the series, `Poseidon's Gold', is not too long in the making.
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on 4 August 2001
In this fun Falco novel, Marcus Didius Falco, the freelance sleuth from Rome is off to Germany to deliver an iron hand to a legion. Throughout, the plot keeps you sitting at the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen between Falco and his high-class girlfriend, Helena Justina, as he has forgotten her birthday. It calls for more funny moments with Nero's ex-barber who wants to see the world but is regarded with suspicion, and Titus Caesar, also angling after Falco's girlfriend.
Helena's brother, Justinus, is stationed in Germany and Falco meets him there where they go for a trip over the Rhine into barbarian country. What exactly happens between Justinus and the barbarian queen Veleda is never told, only hinted at. This is the first novel where Justinus is introduced properly and he will appear again in later Falco novels as a great, amusing character. In Germany, there also is a surprise in store for Falco as someone he knows has come to find him. With all these fun characters, historical intrigue and murders just around the corner, this novel is gripping, full of suspense and a great laugh, as are all of the Falco novels.
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This is the fourth in a series of excellent detective stories set in Vespasian's Roman Empire and featuring the informer Marcus Didius Falco. Informers in ancient Rome were something between a private detective and a government spy.

Falco find himself in the unfortunate situation of having Vespasion's son, the future Emperor Titus, as his rival for the affections of Senator's daughter Helena Justinia. To get him out of the way, Falco is sent off on an undercover mission to the wilds of Germany, an area which the Roman Empire has definately not managed to pacify. This attempt to clear the field for Titus fails however, as Helena follows Falco to Germany. The mission leads them to the beautiful but sinister tribal prophetess Veleda, and Helena's brother promptly falls in love with her.

Anyone who enjoys meeting some of the characters in this book may be interested to know that Veleda will pay an unwilling return visit to Rome in the eighteenth novel, "Saturnalia," during which she will be trying to avoid becoming the star attraction at a Roman execution ...

I tried this series because I had enjoyed Ellis Peter's "Brother Cadfael" detective stories. Where Cadfael is excellent, Falco is brilliant. Ellis Peters herself (or to use her real name, Edith Pargeter) said of the early books of the series 'Lindsey Davis continues her exploration of Vespasian's Rome and Marcus Didius Falco's Italy with the same wit and gusto that made "The Silver Pigs" such a dazzling debut and her rueful, self-deprecating hero so irresistibly likeable.'

Funny, exciting, and based on a painstaking effort to re-create the world of 71 AD. If you have met and enjoyed the Cadfael series, this is even better.

It isn't absolutely essential to read these stories in sequence, as the mysteries Falco is trying to solve are all self-contained stories and each can stand on its own. Having said that, there is some ongoing development of characters and relationships and I think reading them in the right order does improve the experience.

The full Falco series, in chronological order, consists of:

The Silver Pigs: (Falco 1)
Shadows in Bronze
Venus in Copper
The Iron Hand of Mars
Poseidon's Gold
Last Act in Palmyra
Time to Depart
A Dying Light in Corduba
Three Hands in the Fountain
Two for the Lions
One Virgin Too Many
Ode to a Banker
A Body in the Bath house
The Jupiter Myth
The Accusers
Scandal taks a Holiday
See Delphi and Die
Saturnalia
Alexandria
Nemesis

After "Nemesis" Lyndsey Davis appears to have decided she had done enough with the main characters of the original series, so she started a "Next Generation" follow-on for Falco's family in which his adopted daughter, Flavia Albia, picks up the torch. The first story in the successor series is

The Ides of April (Falco: The New Generation).

I have read and can warmly recommend all of these.
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on 21 March 2011
I had to purchase this book to replace one that had been borrowed and not returned years ago. I was great to read it again! In short: Falco is a detective - well, they call him a spy - who would not be out of place anywhere in history, but he is fabulous in the Roman Empire, and so is his girl friend Helena - a very emancipated young woman - who keeps him from becoming a brute.
If you like detectives and ancient history with a nice dollop of romance, you'll love this book and all the others in the series.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 February 2008
This is the fourth novel in the mystery series featuring Marcus Didius Falco, an informer and sleuth in Rome at the time of Vespasian. A series of books that have become hugely popular, so much so that the author is now at the forefront of historical mystery writers. It was probably a stroke of genius on her part to have novels that are extremely well researched and contain all the elements that would be and should be found in Rome in AD70, but to have a lead character who has the vocabulary of a present day New York cop. In this the fourth novel Falco and Helena Justina seem like old friends.

In this novel Falco has to leave his beloved Rome and travel to Germania, a land that is haunted by the ghosts of past massacres. Dark and dismal, cold and wet and huge parts of it covered by virtually impenetrable forests, where the bloodthirsty tribesmen feel at home and are more than ready to inflict another defeat on the Roman army, such as they did not many decades past.

Falco has the enter the most dangerous country known to Roman world, with a few trainee recruits, their Centurion and their Commander. Not just any old Roman officer but Camillus Justinus, the brother of Helena, who will cut Falco into little pieces and feed him to the fishes in the Tiber if he even thinks about returning without her favourite sibling.
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on 8 August 2014
I have read the first three Falco books in the series and thoroughly enjoyed them. This, the fourth, seems to me to be a miscalculation by the author, Lindsey Davis. It takes Falco far away from Rome and his natural haunts. However, with the change of scene - not a bad idea in itself - the novel seems to lose focus. For long periods it takes on the characteristics of a boy's own adventure story rather than the type of narrative we have come to expect. Falco and most of his companions face numerous difficulties and life-threatening situations but always manage to come out alive [just]. However, I missed the atmosphere of Rome, which Davis conjures up so well, and Falco seems to be a slightly different character from the one we have grown used to. The worst part of the experience, however, was the massive tranche of Roman History that went with the plot. It was as if the author wanted to impart her undoubtedly detailed knowledge of the period without considering the effect it would have on the plot line. Too many names of obscure people who have little or no impact on the story are included. It was the first Falco which I have struggled to finish, though I did just manage to persist until the end. So a muted welcome to Falco 4, but will it stop me from buying and reading the next book in the series? Absolutely not!
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on 1 December 2009
humour, mystery and adventure mix in this intriguing fourth novel, where Didius Falco must unravel a tangled web of deceits, treason and murder at the very Germanic edge of the Empire. Couldn't put it down!
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on 19 March 2013
Its a really good story I read it a while ago along with all the others in the series
I like the way that she lets you see what Falco is thinking
She has a great way of finding the funny as well as the serious side of the story
It isn't short of action and the conversations between the characters are brilliant.
I hope there will be more in the series I haven't as yet read the latest though I have
got it and I hope to put them all on my kindle so I will have them wherever I go.
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on 22 June 2013
One of Lindsey Davis' historical works featuring her world-weary 1st century gumshoe, M. Didius Falco. I digress, but has anyone written about a cheerful PI, excluding Dirk Gently? Ms Davis brings the Roman empire to life in a way that the classroom experience usually does not. That she knows her Romans is not in doubt but she also has the ability to create rounded, believable characters with lives to which we can relate. Helena Justina makes a commitment...
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