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‘The first concern of an author is to do down his colleagues.’
In the long, hot Roman summer of AD 74, Falco, private informer and spare-time poet, gives a reading for his family and friends. Things get out of hand as usual. The event is taken over by Aurelius Chrysippus, a wealthy Greek banker and patron to a group of struggling writers, who offers to publish Falco’s work. A visit to the Chrysippus scriptorium implicates Falco in a gruesome literary murder, so when commissioned to investigate, Falco is forced to accept.
Lindsey Davis’s twelfth novel wittily explores Roman publishing and banking, taking us from the jealousies of authorship and the mire of patronage to the darker financial world, where default can have fatal consequences…
'Nobody was poisoned at the dinner for the Society of Olive Oil Producers of Baetica, though in retrospect this was quite a surprise.'
Inimitable sleuth Falco is back with a vengeance. On one night, a man is killed and Rome’s Chief Spy left for dead. This leaves no one except Falco to conduct the investigation.
Soon he is plunged into the fiercely competitive world of olive oil production. Political intrigue, an exotic Spanish dancer and impending fatherhood all add to Falco’s troubles.
Discover one of the world's favourite detectives, as his first case leads him into conspiracy, murder and adventure ...
In 1989 THE SILVER PIGS introduced the world to laid-back first-century detective Marcus Didius Falco, his partner Helena Justina, his law and order pal Petronius, and his indomitable Mother - who became some of the most celebrated characters in historical fiction.
Now reissued in a special new edition to celebrate publication of Falco's twentieth investigation, 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 ...
‘We should have time to manage it … and still get back to the party before the wine runs out.’
It is the Roman holiday of Saturnalia. The days are short; the nights are for wild parties. A general has captured a famous enemy of Rome, and brings her home to adorn his Triumph as a ritual sacrifice. The logistics go wrong; she acquires a mystery illness – then a young man is horrendously murdered and she escapes from house arrest.
Falco is pitted against his old rival, the Chief Spy Anacrites, in a race to find the fugitive before her presence angers the public and makes the government look stupid. Falco has other priorities, for Helena’s brother Justinus has also vanished. Against the riotous backdrop of the season of misrule, the search seems impossible and only Falco seems to notice that some dark agency is bringing death to the city streets…
‘The fountain was not working. Nothing unusual in that…’
Falco and his laddish friend Petronius find their local fountain has been blocked – by a gruesomely severed human hand.
Soon other body parts are being found in the aqueducts and sewers. Public panic overcomes official indifference, and the Aventine partners are commissioned to investigate. Women are being abducted during festivals, with the next Games only days away. As the heat rises in the Circus Maximus, Falco and Petro face a race against time and a strong test of their friendship. They know the sadistic killerlurks somewhere on the festive streets of Rome – preparing to strike again.
‘Rats are always bigger than you expect…’
Falco, ancient Rome’s hangdog investigator, hates sharing a cell with a rodent – though being bailed by his old mother is almost as embarassing. His high-born girlfriend can’t decide if she wants him, and Titus Caesar’s reward for past services is a wet fish. Hoping for a better life, or at least a better apartment, he takes on new clients.
On the elegant slopes of the Pincian Hill, three nouveau riche freedmen with two flashy wives are under siege by a clever redhead. Severina Zotica has a foul-mouthed parrot, an odd connection with a snake dancer – and a very suspicious past. As he pursues this flame-haired fortune-hunter, Falco finds himself beset by violent rentracketeers, poisoners, and women without consciences who have dangerous designs on him…
'I came fully equipped with the old prejudice that anything to do with Egypt involved corruption and deceit.'
AD 77. Egypt was the destination of choice for Roman tourists, being home to not one but two Wonders of the Ancient World, a Centre of Culture, and people with exotic habits.
Unfortunately, when Marcus Didius Falco pays a visit he discovers it's also a hotbed of schemers and murderers. When the Head Librarian dies in suspicious circumstances, the Roman authorities are only too happy to dump the case on one of the Empire's most celebrated investigators - all adding up to a typical Falco family vacation.
‘I was the new boy, so they saddled me with the worst jobs.’
Rome, AD 71. Against his better judgement, Falco secretly disposes of a decayed corpse for the Emperor Vespasian, then heads for the beautiful Bay of Naples with his best friend Petronius. He conveniently forgets to mention to his companion that this will be no holiday. They have been sent to investigate the murderous members of a failed coup, now sunning themselves in luxurious villas and on fancy yachts.
The idyllic seaside location further complicates his seemingly doomed romance with Helena Justina. The deeper he probes, the more it seems Helena is inextricably connected to the elite plotters, in ways that the smitten Falco cannot bear to contemplate…
‘Your brother seemed to know what he was doing.’
Rome, AD 72. Falco returns home from a six-month mission to the German legions. But trouble is in store for him: his apartment has been wrecked by squatters, and an ex-legionary friend of his colourfully heroic brother Festus is demanding money, allegedly owed him as the result of one of Festus’s wild schemes. Worse still, the only client Falco can get is his mother – who wants him to clear the family name.
Then just as Falco thinks things can only get better, fate takes a turn for the worse. The legionary is found viciously stabbed to death, with Falco the prime suspect. Now he has only three days to prove he is not a murderer, to trace the real suspect, amass evidence and win a fortune…
‘Luckily the judge was eager to adjourn for lunch.’
Having returned from his trip to Londinium, Falco takes up employment with two lawyers at the top of their trade. For the trial of a senator, they need Falco to make an affidavit confirming repayment of a loan. Having been out of the country and starved of Forum gossip for some time, Falco has little interest in this trial, so he makes his deposition and then leaves.
The prosecution are successful and a large financial judgment is made, but one month later the senator is dead, apparently by suicide. The heirs are now in a situation of not having to pay up, and the prosecutor suddenly decides to seek out Falco. With a little coercion, Falco joins the prosecution in seeking to persuade a magistrate to instigate a new trial. Blinded by the vision of rich pickings to be gained by the prosecution, Falco temporarily forgets that, if they fail, the financial penalties levelled against the informers who brought the case are potentially enormous.
‘There’s nothing wrong with Britain … that is if you leave out the mammoth travelling distance from one’s dear Roman heritage!’
AD 75. As a passion for home improvement sweeps through the Roman Empire, Falco struggles to deal with a pair of terrible bath-house contractors who have been causing him misery for months. Far away in Britain, King Togidubnus of the Atrebates tribe is planning his own makeover. His huge new residence (known to us as Fishbourne Palace) will be spectacular – but the sensational refurbishment is beset by ‘accidents’. The frugal Emperor Vespasian is paying for all this; he wants someone to investigate.
Falco has a new baby, a new house, and he hates Britain. But his feud with Anacrites the Chief Spy has now reached a dangerous level, so with his own pressing reasons to leave Rome in a hurry, he accepts the task. A thousand miles from home, he starts restoring order to the chaotic building site and realises that someone with murderous intentions is now after him…
‘“I still can’t believe I’ve put the bastard away for good!” Petro muttered.’
Petronius Longus, captain of the Aventine watch and Falco’s oldest friend, has finally nailed one of Rome’s top criminals. Under Roman law, citizens are not imprisoned but are allowed ‘time to depart’ into exile outside the Empire. One dark and gloomy dawn, Petro and Falco put the evil Balbinus aboard a ship.
But soon after, an outbreak of robbery and murder suggests a new criminal ring has moved into Balbinus’ territory. Petro and Falco must descend into the underworld of Vespasian’s Rome to investigate...
‘All the problems I know about are family ones.’
A frightened child approaches Roman informer Falco pleading for help. Nobody believes Gaia’s story that a relation wants to kill her – and neither does he. Beset by his own family troubles, by his new responsibilities as Procurator of the Sacred Poultry, and by the continuing search for a new partner, Falco turns her away.
Immediately he regrets it. Gaia has been selected as the new Vestal Virgin, and when she disappears Falco is officially asked to investigate. Finding Gaia is then a race against time, ending in Falco’s most terrifying exploit yet…
‘I was just a freelance hero doing his best in a hard world.’
The spirit of adventure calls Falco on a new spying mission for the Emperor Vespasian to the untamed East. He’s picking up extra fees from his old friend Thalia the snake dancer as he searches for Sophrona, her lost water organist. With the Chief Spy Anacrites paying his fare, Falco knows anything can go wrong.
A dangerous brush with the Brother, the sinister ruler of Nabataean Petra, sends Falco and his girlfriend Helena on a fast camel-ride to Syria. Here they join a travelling theatre group, which keeps losing members in non-accidental drownings. The bad acting and poor audiences are almost as bad as the desert and its scorpions – then as the killer hovers, Falco tries to write a play…
‘Marcus, you must help me!’
Stunned by a dramatic appeal from his otherwise cool mother-in-law, Falco cannot resist. His brother-in-law has been diverted from his route to Athens University by a man whose newly married daughter disappeared, with her husband, while visiting the Olympic Games as part of an extended wedding trip. Suspecting a classic cover-up, Aulus enrols Falco’s help in solving the case. And of course his mother-in-law hopes to hurry her son along to university by passing the case over to Falco.
Joining the rest of the married couple’s tour group on the remains of their Grand Tour, Falco and Helena seize the opportunity to interview the owner/manager of ‘Seven Sights Travel’, as well as the other guests. Seemingly not getting very far, they can at least make the most of the splendid sights; but finally, on reaching Delphi, Falco and Helena unravel the mystery of the bride and groom…
‘To find a drowned man head-first down a well was slightly unusual, exciting maybe.’
For Falco, a relaxed visit to Helena’s relatives in Britain turns serious at the scene of a downtown murder. The renegade henchman of Rome’s vital ally King Togidubnus has been stuffed head-first down a barroom well – leading to a tricky diplomatic situation which Falco must defuse. One murder leads to others. Londinium now has a forum and an amphitheatre; the town is a magnet for legitimate traders – and for criminals from Rome.
With his vigiles pal Petronius, Falco leads the hunt for gangsters who are intent on taking over. This will bring unwelcome encounters with faces from the past and grave threats to their present relationships. Danger and death lurk throughout their pursuit, all the way from the brand new wharves beside the River Thames to the familiar old haunts of organised crime back home in Italy.
‘I’ve always wanted to see something of the Empire outside Rome.’
AD 71. Germania Libera: dark dripping forests inhabited by bloodthirsty barbarians and legendary wild beasts, a furious prophetess who terrorises Rome, and the ghostly spirits of slaughtered Roman legionaries.
Enter Falco, an Imperial agent on a special mission: to find the absconding commander of a legion whose loyalty is suspect. Easier said than done, thinks Falco, as he makes his uneasy way down the Rhenus, trying to forget that back in sunny Rome his girlfriend Helena Justina is being hotly pursued by Titus Caesar. His mood is not improved when he discovers his only allies are a woefully inadequate bunch of recruits, their embittered centurion, a rogue dog, and its innocent young master; just the right kind of support for an agent unwillingly trying to tame the Celtic hordes.
‘What did he eat last? Whom did he eat, in fact?’
Lumbered with working alongside reptilian Chief Spy Anacrites, Falco has the perfect plan to make money – he will assist Vespasian in the Emperor’s ‘Great Census’ of AD 73. His potential fee could finally allow him to join the middle ranks and be worthy of long-suffering Helena Justina.
Unexpectedly confronted with the murder of a man-eating lion, Falco is distracted from his originaltask, uncovering a bitter rivalry between the gladiators’ trainers. With one star gladiator dead, Falco is forced to investigate and the trail leads from Rome to the blood-soaked sand of the arena in North Africa.
‘This was a lonely place for anybody to be brought to die.’
In the wealthy town of Ostia, our hero Falco appears to be enjoying a relaxing holiday. But when his girlfriend, Helena, arrives carrying a batch of old copies of the Daily Gazette – with the intention of catching up on the latest scandal – Falco is forced to admit to Petronius his real reasons for being there…
‘Infamia’, the pen name of the scribe who writes the gossip column for the Daily Gazette, has gone missing. His fellow scribes have employed Falco to find him and bring him back from his lazy, drunken truancy. However, Falco suspects that there is more to his absence than there might first appear.
In the high summer of AD 77, laid-back detective Marcus Didius Falco is called upon to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a middle-aged couple who supplied statues to Falco's father, Geminus. The Claudii, nptorious freedmen who live rough in the pestilential Pontine Marshes, are the prime suspects. Falco, beset by personal problems, finds it a relief to consider someone else's misfortunes.
When a mutilated corpse turns up near Rome, Falco and his vigiles friend Petronius investigate, only for the Chief Spy, Anacrites, to snatch their case away from them just as they are making progress.As his rivalry with Falco escalates, it emerges that the violent Claudii have acquired corrupt protection at the highest level. Making further enquiries after they have been warned off can only be dangerous - but will this stop Falco and Petronius?
Egged on by the slippery bureaucrats who hate Anacrites, the dogged friends dig deeper while a psychotic killer keeps taking more victims, and the shocking truth creeps closer and closer to home...