M. Didius Falco

Lindsey Davis
Characters Created by LINDSEY DAVIS

REVIEWS
I originally wrote these for Amazon.com, but I have added some notes and LOTS of spoilers here, so be warned!
Large cover images are scans of my own copies. Tiny cover images were snagged from the Bastulli Mystery Library, Steve Sayler Website, The Official LINDSEY DAVIS Website or at Amazon.Com .
Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
1. SILVER PIGS (1989)     [*****]

Awarded Best First Novel Award from The Author's Club.

My all-time FAVOURITE character EVER!

Marcus Didius Falco is a tough as nails, but lovable rogue who would like everyone to think him capable of murder but who can't even pass by a stray dog without sharing his lunch. He's a sweetheart! Which isn't always a good thing when he's on the job as Private Informer. Yeah, he's a PI in Ancient Imperial Rome. When he's not hiding from his nasty landlord Smaractus, he's fending off the rest of the Didius clan which includes an absent father, an overbearing mother, numerous sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, not to mention the memory of a brother along with the woman he never got round to marrying and the child he never knew about before he went and died a hero in Judea. Falco's only friend and ally? Lucius Petronius Longus - army pal and Watch Commander.

In Silver Pigs, the first book in this great series, Falco's down-and-out life takes a dramatic turn (for better or worse?) when he is almost bowled over by a stunning young woman fleeing a couple thugs. Ever the gallant hero (and hoping for a tidy reward), Falco rescues her. Sosia turns out to be the 16 year old neice of a Senator named Camillus Verus and she had been snatched from her uncle's house in broad daylight. First thing Falco has to do is convince the good Senator that he was not the one who abducted her.

Well, all this leads him into the tangled mystery of the stolen silver pig - a 200 pound ingot of British silver lined lead - which had been destined to help fund a conspiracy against the new Emperor, Vespasian. Falco is a Republican at heart, but this stolen silver intrigues him and he ends up traveling out to Britain. He hates Britain - he served 7 long, miserable years in the army stationed in Britain as a member of the Second Legion Augusta (disgraced during the Boudicea Rebellion). He suffers greatly undercover as a slave at the mines trying to figure out how the theft could occur, but the happy part of his trip is meeting the Senator's daughter, Helena Justina. Well, not happy, really, as she hates his guts the moment he arrives and he recipricates in kind, but you know THAT can't last.

The mystery really builds. Poor Falco takes a beating (several, actually), but always comes back for more. With dogged determination and a wry swaggering wit, he struggles to break the conspiracy in order to save an Emperor he doesn't even like. (That'll change, though, too). Bottom line, though - can a lowly informer ever hope to win the heart of a Senator's daughter?

I'm a Romaphile who loves a good detective story and these books combine my two great passions in perfect balance. I highly recommend all the books in this series for anyone desiring a good mystery and an escape to an exotic time and place.

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
2. SHADOWS IN BRONZE (1990)     [*****]

More troubles for Falco.

This novel starts about 10 days after the first one ended. Falco is working on retainer for Vespasian now because he needs to save 400,000 sesterces in order to buy his way into the middle rank and thus be able to woo Helena who is a Senator's daughter. One of the first jobs the Emperor gives him is to dispose of the body of a traitor that has been locked away in a hot warehouse for 10 days - disgusting work. The fact said traitor was Helena's uncle makes the job all the more distasteful.

Marcus Didius Falco is a Private Informer, you see. A plebian rogue with a reputation as a penniless womanizer - wholey undeserved, mind you. At least the womanizer part. Mostly.

Anyway, the conspiracy unearthed in the first book (Silver Pigs) hasn't quite been squashed - there are still several conspirators on the loose and Falco is sent to offer them out-of-the-way positions where they can save face but cause no more damage. Failing that, they are to be arrested. So naturally, Falco takes a holiday - his nephew Larius, friend Petronius Longus, Petro's wife and their three little girls (all under 5) acting as cover. Add an oddly amorous ox named Nero and it's a recipe for disaster. Peril stalks our hero all the way to Naples where the true extent of this conspiracy becomes clear.

As an added distraction for our hero, his lady-love Helena is also vacationing in Naples. He loves her madly, but he feels he's not worthy of her. At the same time, he would like to think she loves him enough to take him as he is anyway, but she's sending him mixed signals and he's getting frustrated. With the attempts on his life coming hot and heavy, though, he may not have to worry about a future at all.

It's a great ride and Falco is still my all-time favorite literary character EVER.

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
3. VENUS IN COPPER (1991)     [*****]

Poor Falco takes his lumps in this one.

Book number three in the series starts with our hero in prison. He's been there a week - ever since the Palace spy Anacrites snagged him for theft. It's all a misunderstanding, of course, and soon sorted out. But the whole experience sours him on working for the Palace - he decides to go strictly private again.

Falco gets hired by a group of freedman ex-slaves who are concerned for the well-being of their fellow freedman, Novus. The Hortensii group are filthy rich, but have no class and Novus, the only bachelor in the group, is now engaged to a professional bride. Severina has been married three times and each husband has died under less than natural circumstances and each left their bride a handsome legacy. Novus' friends fear for his life. They want Falco to investigate the woman and try to prove her guilt if he can.

With the promise of a fat fee, Falco is off and running. What starts out a simple case quickly gets complicated when Novus ends up dead anyway, but they weren't married yet, so why would Severina have killed him? Falco suspects something more is going on and his suspicions are confirmed when a big shot real estate mogul has him beaten to a bloody pulp.

From the Lautumiae Prison to Falco's new apartment; from the giant turbot to the bad tempered parrot - it's a great ride and it's fun deciphering the clues along with Falco - the final truth is chilling.

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
4. IRON HAND OF MARS (1992)     [*****]

These books just get better and better!

Falco and his lady love Helena have spent the last two weeks in bed, but now Helena literally kicks him out of bed and tells him to get a job. Since he never actually got around to informing the Palace that he'd quit their employ, he stops by there first to see if there is any work to be had only to be warned about a mission to Germany the Emperor wants him for. A winter in Gaul is not an appealing thought, so he makes himself scarce before anyone can inform him officially.

The big surprise, though, it that Titus Caesar has his eye on Helena and Falco is torn between jealousy and a desire to see Helena happy with someone of her own class (and you can't get much more classy than the Emperor's son) A part of him wants to murder Titus while another wants to do the right thing and step aside. Eventually, Falco is almost glad to leave for Germany just to get away from the frustration.

His mission is an impossible one. Outwardly, his job is to deliver a new standard to the 14th Legion (The Iron Hand of Mars for which the book is titled), but his true mission is to a) Evaluate the 14th and report whether they can be trusted or not; b) Find the rebel leader Civilis and make peace with him; c) Discover the fate of one Munius Lubercus, a Legate taken prisoner and supposedly sent to a Celtic priestess as a gift; d) Make peace with Veleda, the priestess. Yeeeeeah, tall order, huh? Due to his rudeness, Helena has scarpered and Falco hopes maybe she's gone to see her brother Justinus, who happens to be in Germany, so Falco hopes to run into her there and apologize - ie grovel at her well manicured feet and beg her to forgive him. We've met Justinus before, but only briefly. He really shows his colors in this one, proving to be a sensitive, intelligent, stand-up young man - not at all what one expects to find in a senior tribune.

The mission is dangerous, but if Falco is to earn enough to buy his way into the middle rank (and thus, be able to marry Helena without scandal), he'll have to tackle jobs no one else wants. Did I say it was dangerous? Try EXTREMELY dangerous. He finds himself, for the first time in his life, completely outside the Empire where the natives tend to find creative ways to butcher any Roman they find. We're talking non-stop, nail-biting peril here. Wish I could give this one 6 stars - it's a MUST read!

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
5. POSEIDON'S GOLD (1992)     [*****]

This one's a heart-breaker!

When Falco and Helena return to Rome after six gruelling months in Germany, their homecoming is less than welcoming. Squatters have trashed their apartment, so they head for his mother's house only to find a hostile legionaire has moved in. This one is all about family. Three years after the heroic death of Falco's elder brother Festus, claims for debts are being levied against the Didius family and Falco must team up with the father he hates in order to straighten everything out. Aside from Falco being wanted for a murder he didn't commit, he is faced with the possibility that his much beloved brother was really a scoundrel of the worst kind.

We learn a whole lot about the entire Didius clan, so it's a must read for anyone interested in the characters as well as the mysteries in this series.

Cover
FALCO ON HIS METAL (1999)     [*****]

This is a compilation volume including Venus in Copper, The Iron Hand of Mars, and Poseidon's Gold.

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
6. LAST ACT IN PALMYRA (1994)     [*****]

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
7. TIME TO DEPART (1995)     [*****]

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
8. A DYING LIGHT IN CORDUBA (1996)     [*****]

Cover
FALCO ON THE LOOSE (2003)     [*****]

This is a compilation volume including Last Act in Palmyra, Time to Depart and A Dying Light in Corduba.

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
9. THREE HANDS IN THE FOUNTAIN (1996)     [*****]

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
10. TWO FOR THE LIONS (1998)     [*****]

Awarded the first Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award.

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
11. ONE VIRGIN TOO MANY (1999)     [****½]

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
12. ODE TO A BANKER (2001)     [*****]

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
13. A BODY IN THE BATH HOUSE (2001)     [*****]

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
14. THE JUPITER MYTH (2002)     [*****]

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
15. THE ACCUSERS (2003)     [*****]

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
16. SCANDAL TAKES A HOLIDAY (2004)     [*****]

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
17. SEE DELPHI AND DIE (2005)     [*****]

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
18. SATURNALIA (2007)     [*****½]

Cover

UK / US
Cover Cover
19. ALEXANDRIA (2009)     [rate]

MULTIMEDIA

I have heard of an A&E TV movie made featuring Bryan Brown as Falco. (Wouldn't have been my first choice), but it doesn't seem to be available on video. I am so curious. Age of Treason is the title and IMDb dates it 1993.

There are also several BBC Radio dramatizations available, which I am slowly getting my hot little hands on. The first five books have been dramatized so far: Silver Pigs, Shadows in Bronze, Venus in Copper, The Iron Hand of Mars and Poseidon's Gold.

Cover images are either from the BBC Shop or from Audible.
Cover
Silver Pigs BBC Radio Dramatization (Mar 2004)     [*****]

This is a full cast radio play starring Anton Lesser as Falco and Fritha Goodey as Helena and it is GREAT! The cast is superb, especially Anton Lesser as Falco. The adaptation is faithful to the book and has all the humor, passion and pathos - all the hard knocks, mayhem and danger. I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of them and I hope they keep making more.

Cover
Shadows in Bronze BBC Radio Dramatization (Jan 2006)     [*****]

Unfortunately, Fritha Goodey, who played Helena in the first radio play, died a few months after recording it, so Anna Medeley took over as Helena. She's okay, but not quite as good, in my opinion. She does the sweetness well enough, but the acerbic wit doesn't seem to come as naturally. Still, this one is just as well done as the first - these are GREAT! The guy playing Vespasian cracks me up - he's wonderful.

One error I noticed right off is as the play opens, Falco and his pal Petro are disposing of a corpse - the corpse of Helena's uncle who was a traitor and who was killed by his brother (Helena's dad) at the end of Silver Pigs. They proclaim that he "got his niece murdered when he tried to depose the Emperor" - only, it was his own daughter who got killed. Oops.

Cover
Venus in Copper BBC Radio Dramatization (Jul 2006)     [*****]

I hope they continue to keep these so faithful to the books. Anton Lesser is just so perfect as Falco.

Cover
The Iron Hand of Mars BBC Radio Dramatization (2007)     []

Cover
Poseidon's Gold BBC Radio Dramatization (2009)     []

Last updated Feb 2010

Map: Text links below
HomeMedia pageMail

TEXT LINKS
| Derek Adams | Nigel Bennett | Raymond Chandler | Lee Child | Lindsey Davis | Jonathan Gash | Terry Goodkind | Faye Kellerman | Jonathan Kellerman | John D. MacDonald | Rex Stout | F. Paul Wilson |

| HOME | MEDIA | MAIL |


BACK