Think of Ancient Rome (AD 70 types) and the images that come to mind are of emperors, soldiers, gladiators, orgies and the like. Right. Now add a detective to it. Or as they were referred to in those days, informers. Well, that is exactly what Lindsey Davis has placed in The Silver Pigs, the first book to feature her now-famous detective, Marcus Didius Falco.
But that does not mean that The Silver Pigs is slow moving. Nope, it is supremely well paced and laced with mystery and detection. And surprise, surprise, a lot of humour. Yes, you heard that right – this is a thriller that will make you smile. And that is because it is told from the perspective of its hero, Falco, who is wonderfully droll. A former soldier in the Roman army, Falco leaves the service to become an informer (detective) in Rome. His experiences in the army have left him with a cynical outlook and this results in some very savage exchanges especially with members of the upper classes.
The book begins with Falco literally doing his best to get in the way of a very beautiful girl. He discovers that she has actually been kidnapped and has escaped and well, before he can get her back to her parents and claim a reward (times are tough, as he keeps reminding us), she escapes from him too. One thing leads to another and before you know it, Falco is caught in a web that involves smuggling, forgery and murder. Of course, he as always has his wits and intelligence to fall back on, with a little help from his former colleagues in the army.
The book has its element of mystery but what makes it really special is Davis’ brilliant narration, which is elegant and sparkles with flashes of frequent humour. No, this is not a laugh riot, and there are some dark moments as well, but you will smile more often than frown or tear up while reading The Silver Pigs. The book also introduces a character who plays an important part in the Falco series. This is something you could get used to, we have. And we know more about Vespasian’s Rome than our history textbooks ever told us, and have had a good laugh about it as well, in the bargain!
Need we say more? Read.