This is certainly a great historical fiction read, especially if the Roman Empire is your thing.
From the official blurb:
“THE SILVER PIGS sees Falco cynically eyeing up the new Roman emperor, Vespasian. Our hero, a private informer, rescues a young girl in trouble and is catapulted into a dangerous game involving stolen imperial ingots, a dark political plot and, most hazardous of all, a senator’s daughter connected to the traitors Falco has sworn to expose…”
I’ve already reviewed Crystal King’s upstairs-downstairs tale of the greatest gourmand of antiquity and the multiple authors’ take on the tragedy of Pompeii. Now, continuing the Ancient Roman theme, I’m getting to the first novel in Lindsey Davis’ famous series.
I’m going to get the less-flattering point out first, so that I can then start the much-deserved praise with a clear conscience: when it comes to the actual mystery plot, Davis is no Agatha Christie. Perhaps, it’s the early book effect, and the mysteries will get more complicated as the series roll on – I’m definitely going to check that!
But the complexity (or lack of it) of the whodunit element isn’t even that important here (strange assertion for a mystery novel review, I know!). Falco series are to the Roman Empire what Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher novels are to the 1920s; you can read them solely for the pleasure of immersing yourself in the era.
It’s a refreshingly ironic portrayal of what is too often dubbed the greatest empire of antiquity. Falco lets us see it at its best (a glittering Roman triumph), worst (the horrors of slave-powered silver mines), funniest (Linnea the enterprising laundress is a larger-than-life figure on par with Wodehousean aunts) and most mundane. This latter category includes rapacious landlords, tangled family affairs (shown about as far from the usual portrayal of a stately paterfamilias as it can get) and dreary seaside resorts. The characters are instantly likeable, and you are bound to follow them even you don’t want to follow the latest conspiracy.
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