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The Silver Pigs: (Falco 1)
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on 4 November 2017
This is the second book in the Falco series and the second one I've read. After the first I was a bit puzzled by all the positive reviews about how you feel you've been transported back in time to experience what walking around Rome was like. I didn't feel like that at all. I tried a second book to see if things got better. They didn't.

Oddly enough I *have* read books that do this: the (as far as I can tell) phenomenally well researched (and comprehensive and detailed) First Man in Rome series by Colleen McCullough and then the SPQR series by John Maddox Roberts.

Somehow the descriptions and details aren't doing it for me. They keep jarring. In the first book he mentions holding a handful of pepper and that this is worth a year's income. Or something like that. That's believable. But then Falco picks up some roadside fastfood snack (yes, ok) that's smothered in pepper and fish-sauce or something. What? That's like a cheeseburger wrapped in gold leaf and smothered in saffron.

In this book he has some saffron soup. I was under the impression that poor and even normal Romans basically ate, more or less, a sort of porridge made with crushed wheat. And not much else. Ok, maybe some vegetables and the occasional bit of fish or meat. But not saffron infused dishes with spices from India and beyond. Yes, there are wonderful recipes from ancient Rome -- but for the rich and super rich.

I might be wrong of course. I don't know what the fast food in Rome was like or how much it cost. So what got me writing this review though was:

"Larius was putting fifty gold seterces on Ferox for me"

Now, from Wikipedia,

"The sestertius (plural sestertii), or sesterce (plural sesterces), was an ancient Roman coin. During the Roman Republic it was a small, silver coin issued only on rare occasions. During the Roman Empire it was a large brass coin."

Ok, so Wikipedia wasn't around when the book was written, but surely everyone knows the serstertius was never a gold coin?

Nevertheless the books were perfectly readable and the main characters perfectly likeable. I was just disappointed that I didn't find the experience as immersive as with the other series I mentioned.
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on 28 June 2017
Do yourself a favour. If you've never read any historical who dunnit fiction you could do much worse than start here. I first heard of her work by listening into the BBC R4 serialisation of this novel. Lindsey Davis writes about everyday Rome under Vespasian through the eyes of her gum shoe - Marcus Didius Falco - and creates a world so realistic you'd believe you were there.

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.
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on 16 November 2016
I read the reviews and really fancied reading this. I enjoy detective stories and thought this sounded different. Also, having visited Pompei recently and being interested in that period of history, I thought it would be a way of learning more. I wasn't disappointed - I was hooked immediately and read this through in a couple of sessions while on holiday. I did learn some interesting new facts and was fascinated by many of the aspects of roman life which are different but in many ways so similar to modern life. I am so pleased that there are a lot of books in the series as it means that I can work my way through all of them.
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on 7 December 2014
I have come late to the Falco stories, and am thoroughly enjoying them. This is episode two and follows on directly from the first book. I gather that the later books do not always run on so directly. The authors style is a little esoteric, in that although writing about first century Rome, her characters use what is essentially modern dialogue and language. It appears that this has put some people off the books, but you get used to it very quickly, and it is, perhaps, what sets them apart from similar books.
This volume continues to build the personalities of the main characters, and you get to know them better, and understand their motives. The author obviously felt in no hurry to tell us everything in one page, as so often happens in novels today, and it takes time to understand why characters sometimes act the way they do. Even by the end of this book, it is clear that there is a lot to come concerning Falco and his relationship with Helena Justina, as well as her mother and father.
The plot in this book concludes the story from the first book, and although the surprises are sometimes fairly easy to work out, there is still a sense of anticipation. As one or two other reviewers have said, these books are not really tense mysteries, but more interesting travels through a history that is part real, part fictional. They are no less enthralling for that.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 April 2016
I am almost new to this series - I bought the first 10 in the deals a month ago so I have now read the first two and another one I can't identify about 20 years ago when I was too immature to appreciate it. Shadows In Bronze takes up where The Silver Pigs finishes with Falco charged by the emperor Vespasian with cleaning up after the failed plot against him. However we are in Ancient Rome where politics is king (or should that be emperor?) so while cleaning up involves disposing of a dead body anonymously it also involves bringing the other conspirators back onside through persuasion. Falco gets a couple trips into the Deep South, has a few adventures and furthers his relationship with Helena Justina. Obviously it is much more complicated than this, perhaps even over complicated but I'm not sure how many people read this series for the plots when it has so much more to offer. Ms Davis writes authoritatively about the period with plenty of detail on the daily lives of the working class and the political machinations of the great - it's fascinating stuff. It's all viewed through Falco's jaundiced eye which puts it in perspective and provides a good laugh. Her characterisation is also excellent. Falco is a wonderful creation - a bit of a wide boy who always manages to stumble on to the right path and get a result but his heart is in the right place, he just needs a firm hand which Helena will sort out in time.
I enjoyed Shadows In Bronze although I think there was too much of Falco and Helena's relationship in it for my taste. Although, having said that, I thought some of the scenes at the end were very well done and showed a different side to both characters. I can recommend it as a good read for anyone looking for some historical adventure.
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on 31 March 2012
Having just devoured and reviewed Lindsey Davis' latest book, 'Master and God', I decided to go back to the beginning of my acquaintance with a favourite author, and re-read 'The Silver Pigs'. And if ever a book wins you over to the hero's side (hauls you into the racing, thrilling plot) from the first lines, this is it. It was these words that hooked me: 'Some men are born lucky; others are called Didius Falco'. I was never going to not love a narrator as self-deprecatingly funny as he is.

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).
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VINE VOICEHALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 June 2011
Marcus Didius Falco rescues a girl who is being chased by some armed men. Her name is Sosia and she was kidnapped from her home and was being taken to a bank deposit box which only she can open. But things are much more complicated than at first seems and the ensuing adventure will lead to Falco spending three months working in a silver mine to try and find out how the silver pigs - bars containing silver - are being side tracked away from the Emperor's treasury.

For some reason I have always avoided reading this series but having made an effort and listened to Falco: See Delphi and Die (Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries) in audio book format I am hooked on it. I love the way the characters come to life - Falco himself and his friends and family; the Emperor Vespasian and his sons; the senator Decimus - uncle of Sosia and father of Helena Justina whom Falco escorts across Europe to Rome after she has been visiting her aunt and uncle in that outpost of the Roman Empire - Britain.

I loved the way Falco's relationships were portrayed, not always straightforward not always obvious but some unexpected friendships and some subtle interactions which need to be read more than once to appreciate all the nuances. Above all what appeals to me is the humour which arises from the way people behave and the fact that Falco is always able to laugh at his own mistakes while still striving to achieve his objectives. He isn't afraid of talking to the Emperor as an equal and doesn't suffer fools gladly. But he loves his family especially his small niece, Marcia and he values his friendships.

I found the historical background interesting too as it shows how Roman life was quite sophisticated and the political intrigue worthy of Machiavelli. The book can be read as light hearted entertainment but there are many deeper aspects to the story and the relationships between the characters. I recommend this series to anyone who wants something a bit different and who doesn't mind picking up knowledge of Roman history in the process, though the historical detail is never overdone. I wish I'd read this book years ago.
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VINE VOICEHALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERon 5 May 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
See Delphi and Die is a 10 CD 11 hours and a half reading of the book by Christian Rodska. And he does a fine job of bringing the book to life.

I've read and enjoyed the Falco series by Lindsey Davis for years now but must admit I am a little jaded in him after 17 books.
He seems to be more and more of a `Roman Chav' in my opinion when compared to Steven Saylor's Gordianus the Finder or John Maddox Roberts SPQR series Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger (BOTH highly recommended ) {See my reviews of them if you at all interested in Good Roman detective stories. Am I being a snob? No I think not I often feel Decius deserves a good kick in the toga to get him to improve himself. BUT is this the sign of a good character one we care about??
Back to the story CDs
This one is better in that it takes Falco out of Rome to Romano Greece> Informer, Marcus Didio Falco is summoned by his mother-in-law to find her son Aulus and get him to back to study hard for a career as a Roman Aristo. But it seems Aulus has stumbled upon a murder in Olympia and has written to his mother knowing that Falco and Helena will be interested in the case and come like the 9th cavalry to Greece to solve the mystery.
It seems the murder victim was young honeymooning bride on a tour of Greece with an agency! Sounds far fetched but these things happened! Of course we are alerted to the history of the murder when three years earlier another young woman died violently on a tour with the same agency. Cue music!!. Falco and co( Smart Aristo born wife Helena, his adopted daughter Albia, two of his nephews Gaius and Cornelius, the son of his personal trainer Glaucus his dog Nux and Uncle Tom.. No I lie about the last one).
We travel with Falco and co from Rome to Olympia via Corinth.
I won't reveal the plot but of course all may be revealed and two mysterys just may be solved.
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VINE VOICEHALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 June 2011
Marcus Didius Falco has persuaded his friend Petronius to go with him to Pompeii and Herculaneum under cover of a family holiday. It is a mixed party which sets out in a cart drawn by Nero the ox who is part owned by Petronius. The purpose of the `holiday' is to track down the remaining conspirators who were involved in the theft of the silver pigs in the first volume in the series.

In the course of their travels they meet Helena Justina, Falco's estranged girl friend who is staying at the nearby villa belonging to her ex-husband's adopted father. There are some marvellous episodes involving the mis-behaviour of the ox as well as some episodes at sea which are not good for Falco's perennial sea sickness. But Falco is prepared to go to extreme lengths to earn the bonus the Emperor Vespasian has promised him if he manages to bring the remainder of the conspirators back to Rome.

I enjoyed the way the characters are developing in this series and the subtle and understated way the relationship between Helena and Falco is progressing. There os not much to the mystery element of the novel but the characters and the dialogue more than make up for it.

The details of everyday life in the Roman Empire are also very well done to the extent that the reader can almost feel as though they are there in the hot sun near the Bay of Naples. The novels in this series can be read out of order as each will stand alone but it helps to see how the relationships and the characters build up if they are read in sequence. This is the second book in the series the first being 'The Silver Pigs'
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on 13 September 2012
After my friend insisted I read this series, I had this book on my bookshelf for a good few months before I ran out of books and decided to give it a go.
(She promised me the Falco books were a great read but I was trying not to expect too much.)
The book starts brilliantly, with a gripping introduction that altogether sums up the attitude of the books and the main character in one go.
So when the book began to head down a clichéd path through the second and third chapters I was a little disappointed. However, a few pages later
a twist gave me new hope. The plot thickened, the characters evolved and I was hooked again. I just could not put it down from there to the end
and immediately bought the second book.
In places you can see how well the era and setting have been researched, although at the beginning of the book these features are explained either at length
or not enough, though this is quickly balanced later in teh book where the description becomes more even.

All in all, wonderfully original characters, a gripping plot with some brilliant twists and a fantastic read.
I'd heard these books gain most of their readership through word of mouth and now I can definitely see why.
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