Review: ‘The Silver Pigs’ by Lindsey Davis

By oldenglishrose - Last updated: Friday, August 20, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

When Marcus Didius Falco, a Roman “informer” who has a nose for trouble that’s sharper than most, encounters Sosia Camillina in the Forum, he senses immediately all is not right with the pretty girl. She confesses to him that she is fleeing for her life, and Falco makes the rash decision to rescue her—a decision he will come to regret. For Sosia bears a heavy burden: as heavy as a pile of stolen Imperial ingots, in fact. Matters just get more complicated when Falco meets Helena Justina, a Senator’s daughter who is connected to the very same traitors he has sworn to expose. Soon Falco finds himself swept from the perilous back alleys of Ancient Rome to the silver mines of distant Britain—and up against a cabal of traitors with blood on their hands and no compunction whatsoever to do away with a snooping plebe like Falco.  (Goodreads Summary)

This book felt like the best possible combination of an exciting mystery and a really interesting history lesson. Lindsey Davis has obviously spent a great deal of time and effort researching Rome, the empire and everyday life at the time and it shows. The setting of the book is rich, believable and exactly how I imagine ancient Rome would have been. She also has an useful device of making more knowledgeable characters explain things to less knowledgeable ones, so that details which the reader might not know or understand (such as the process of casting silver pigs) are fully explained without it seeming contrived or out of place. The book managed to walk the delicate line of being educational without being didactic.

I also enjoyed how the author turned all the detective stereotypes around and created a really original character in Falco. Detectives usually have no family: Falco is at the centre of a huge Italian family of chattering women, complete with overbearing mother. They usually have troubled pasts: Falco has a slightly embarrassing one that he’d rather no one mentioned. The list of his interesting characteristics goes on, and his wry observations made him a perfect first person narrator. The other characters in the book are equally well thought out: bold, brash and full of life. I look forward to meeting them again in subsequent books, as I’ll definitely be reading more of this series.

The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis.  Published by Arrow, 2000, pp. 318.  Originally published in 1989.

N.B. This is an old review written in 2010 and posted on Goodreads and LibraryThing before I started keeping track of all the books I read here at Old English Rose Reads.  I’ve decided to keep copies here so that this remains a complete record of my reading since I started reviewing books for my own pleasure.

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