This is the first of a series of detective stories set in Vespasian's Roman Empire and featuring the informer Marcus Didius Falco.
I tried this historical detective story because I had enjoyed Ellis Peter's "Brother Cadfael" detective stories. They were excellent but this is brilliant, as is the rest of the series.
Funny, exciting, and based on a painstaking effort to re-create the world of 70 AD.
By chance, Falco rescues a 16-year old girl called Sosia Camillina from a gang of thugs. She turns out to be the illegitimate niece of a senator, who suspects that an illegal trade is going on in silver pigs (ingots) from a godforsaken remote corner of the empire - Britain. To Falco's disgust he has to return to this barbaric spot where he had once served with the legions ...
The events of this story vary from the tragic to the hilarious, and are often completely unexpected. It includes a mystery and the start of a charming ongoing love story.
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 considerable 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 at the moment of:
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
I have read and can warmly recommend all of these.
Lindsey Davis has also written a historical novel set in the same timeframe called "The Course of Honor" which is about the love affair between Vespasian and his mistress Caenis. The author has taken the two sentences from Suetonius which are all we know of Caenis, and from them she has conjured the vital image of a woman beautiful in both form and personality and a charming love story.
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