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The Silver Pigs: (Falco 1) Paperback – 7 Feb 2008
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"Every book in this series is a delight … fans will snap it up, highly recommended
Library Journal" (Library Journal)
"Davis is a prolific and popular writer … Her research has been assiduous and detailed, her commitment to the subject is impressive, and the background detail is often eye-opening" (Hilary Mantel Observer)
"One of the best of the current writers in this field" (Donna Leon The Times)
"Surely the best historical detective in the business" (Mike Ripley Daily Telegraph)
"The whole thing is splendid. It has everything: mystery, pace wit, fascinating scholarship … she brings imperial Rome to life" (Ellis Peters)
One of the Roman novels from the bestselling historical fiction Falco seriesSee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
This is the first book in the Falco series, be careful, if you get the taste for this you'll end up reading them all… I can think of worse ways to pass the time.
Marcus Didius Falco - ex-legionary, Aventine backstreet boy, Imperial Rome's answer to a 1940's private eye, poet. Surviving on boring divorce and insurance work, and up to his eyes in his raucous Roman family (headed up by one fearsome Italian mamma). He's kept sane by his sense of humour, his old army buddy Petronius, and his cheerful, scattergun approach to girls. (There are moments when any female reader won't know if she wants to smack him in the eye...or do something else entirely). Falco is just getting on with the only life open to him, as best he knows how, living in the moment and, invariably, in trouble. And then a girl - terrified - runs right into him (well, almost), yells, and changes his life forever. And in a way so unexpected, few readers will see it coming.
This is the real novelty of Davis' creation; not just the historical setting, but the breaking of rather a lot of crime genre rules. Not least by being so laugh-till-you're-sick funny it can be embarrassing to read her books on trains. But behind the humour, the puzzle, and the danger, there is something much more important; humanity, shoring up both the story and the character of Falco himself. He can plunge himself into chaos without breaking a sweat, but he is driven by real anger, contempt, for a system that allows the innocent and the poor to be so hurt and so cheated and so denied. Falco is no fool (except, perhaps, where women are concerned), he is hardened by war and failure, he is a cynic who is usally proved right; but he still knows, and cares, about the injustice and the greed and the violence. Just because he accepts the facts, does not mean he won't fight to change them.
As to plot, I won't do more than say that, in the course of this first adventure, Falco meets his match. He certainly meets his Waterloo! But through all of it - confused, hacked off, or just trying to stay alive - he stays true to his best nature. Falco is a good, and good-hearted, man. Great company. You could listen to him for days, never mind an hour or two.
The other great strength of Davis' books is that you slip into a familiarty with Imperial Rome that should be impossible if, like me, you are relying on the sparse knowledge accrued in Latin classes at school. She has all the best teachers' gift of slipping information into your memory bank without you ever being aware she's doing it. She uses the vernacular - of speech, of fashion, of food, of family life - the things by which we recognise our own world. So, right from the start, what you don't yet know doesn't matter; you can see Rome, feel the heat, breathe it, definitely you can smell it. For anyone familiar with Italian cities, or New York, it's like going home. Falco's world is, at heart, our world; just with togas not skinny jeans, lethal-sounding fish pickle sauces not ketchup. It's bursting at the seams with life. I half expect to trip over Joey Tribbiani ('How you doin'?'), models in those sunglasses only Italians ever really look cool in, seen-it-all traffic cops, the Sopranos. By which I mean that if any of you have heard great things about this book, but feel a little wary of its being historical, don't be. You'll be finding your way around in the dark in a heartbeat. Falco is that great a guide.
And speaking of dark, there is plenty of murk, and murder, in the depths of this book. Falco's world may be thrilling, but it's brutal and it's venal and it's terrifying. That you so enjoy your time there is down very much to the warm reality of Falco himself.
So please give this a go - and enjoy it. (And those of you who might be put off visiting the deepest depths of the West of England - again, please don't be. The Mendip Hills are, as described, bone-shatteringly cold and alarming in winter, but this is what your thermal underwear, and your thermos, and dialling 999 are for. If you ask the inhabitants, those Romans...yes, Falco, even you...the definition of Continental wussery! Sorry, but there it is).
My one real criticism is that I didn't really feel the atmosphere of Rome. I can't really explain what I mean, but I felt that the story could really have been set in any time and place; the writing did not transport me to the setting.
I have to compare this with Stephen Saylor's Gordianus the Finder novels, which are a real favourite of mine. For me, they have a deeper sense of place and time, and a more involving main character. However, I have read several of that series, and only one of this, so there is plenty of time for Falco to grow on me!