Shadows in Bronze (Marcus Didius Falco Series #2)
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Shadows in Bronze (Marcus Didius Falco Series #2)

4.2 20
by Lindsey Davis

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Friends, Romans, countrymen…welcome back to the world of ancient Rome in Lindsey Davis's thoroughly enjoyable, award-winning series.


It's the first century A.D. and Marcus Didius Falco, Ancient Rome's favorite son and sometime palace spy, has just been dealt a lousy blow from the gods: The


Friends, Romans, countrymen…welcome back to the world of ancient Rome in Lindsey Davis's thoroughly enjoyable, award-winning series.


It's the first century A.D. and Marcus Didius Falco, Ancient Rome's favorite son and sometime palace spy, has just been dealt a lousy blow from the gods: The beautiful, high-born Helena Justina has left him in the dust. So when the Emperor Vespasian calls upon him to investigate an act of treason, Falco is more than ready for a distraction. Disguised as an idle vacationer in the company of his best friend Petronius, Falco travels from the Isle of Capreae to Neapolis and all the way to the great city of Pompeii…where a whole new series of Herculean events—involving yet another conspiracy, and a fateful meeting with his beloved Helena—are about to erupt….

"Davis mixes Modern sensibility [and] fascinating historical detail."—Chicago Tribune

"Knockabout adventure."—Kirkus Reviews

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
No caveats for readers of Davis's second playful, well-plotted mystery featuring imperial agent Marcus Didius Falco and based in first century, C.E., Rome. Nero's successor Vespasian has squelched an early treasonous plot and assigned Falco to take care of loose ends, which include the body of the uncle of the high-born young widow Helena Justina, whom Falco met and courted stormily in Silver Pigs. Disguised as an idle vacationer in the company of his comrade and captain of the Aventine Watch, Petronius Longus and family, Falco travels south to Neapolis, Capreae and Pompeii (eight years before its destruction) where he uncovers and must thwart a new conspiracy involving the shipment of Egyptian grain to Rome and an unwitting Helena. Like a toga-clad McGee or Spenser, Falco has a modern sensibility that wears its ancient trappings comfortably, whether he's sneaking down a narrow Roman street or feasting sumptuously at a sunlit coastal villa. A rousing horserace in the Circus Maximus, balanced with a touching romantic resolution, rounds out this action-packed entertainment, enlivened by Davis's vivid characterization of both major and minor players, and his clear delight in--and easy authority with--the story's time and place. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Falco, an imperial agent for the Emperor Vespasian in 1st century Rome, has an eye for pretty women but a heart that belongs only to Helena, daughter of Senator Verus. Because of Falco's humble origins the lady is quite out of his league; still the attraction is mutual. This is the author's second novel with Falco as hero (the first was Silver Pigs, LJ 9/1/89). Here the Emperor asks him to track down treasonous plotters still smarting from Vespasian's usurpation of the throne. The real beauty of this novel lies in its well-etched characters including wayward senators; rascally friends of Falco; and troubled members of his family. In addition, Davis gives us the wonderful wit of narrator Falco and a de lightful evocation of ancient Rome's sights, sounds, and smells.-- Patricia Altner, Dept. of Defense Lib., Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C.
School Library Journal
YA-- That rascally Roman detective, Marcus Didius Falco, is back, still pining for the unavailable, upper-class Helen; bumbling through investigations; and dodging his nagging mother. Set in Italy in a.d. 70, the mystery of Helen's ``returned-to-life'' husband flows smoothly, accompanied by such historical details as descriptions of prostitutes flourishing in Pompeii, salesmen hawking used chariots, and women dying their hair with the newest shade--Egyptian Russet. It's great fun to read of Falco's dubious detecting skills, aided by his sharp eye for noticing and reporting on the world around him. A book that should be required reading for those students who foolishly believe the adage ``Latin is a dead language.''-- Pam Spencer, Jefferson Sci-Tech, Alexandria, VA
From the Publisher

“Davis mixes Modern sensibility [and] fascinating historical detail.” —Chicago Tribune

“Knockabout adventure.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Davis makes Rome live.” —Washington Post Book World

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Marcus Didius Falco Series, #2
Product dimensions:
4.23(w) x 6.69(h) x 1.28(d)

Read an Excerpt

(Chapter I)

By the end of the alley the fine hairs in my nostrils were starting to twitch. It was late May, and the weather in Rome had been warm for a week. Energetic spring sunlight had been beating on the warehouse roof, fermenting a generous must inside. All the eastern spices would be humming like magic, and the corpse we had come to bury would be lively with human gases and decay.

I brought four volunteers from the Praetorian Guard plus a captain called Julius Frontinus who used to know my brother. He and I prised off the chains from the backstreet gates, then sauntered around the loading yard while the troopers rattled at the lock on the huge inner door.

While we were waiting Frontinus grumbled, ‘Falco, after today, just reckon I never met your brother in my life! This is the last disgusting errand you can expect to drag me on—’

‘Private favour for the Emperor…Festus would have had a word for it!’

Frontinus described the Emperor with my brother’s word, which was not genteel.

‘Easy work, Caesaring!’ I commented light-heartedly. ‘Smart uniform, free living quarters, the best seat at the Circus – and all the honeyed almonds you can eat!’

‘So what made Vespasian select you to deal with this?’

‘I’m easy to bully and I needed the money.’

‘Oh, a logical choice!’

My name is Didius Falco, Marcus to special friends. At the time I was thirty years old, a free citizen of Rome. All that meant was that I had been born in a slum, I still lived in one, and except in irrational moments I expected to die in one too.

I was a private informer the Palace occasionally used. Shedding a putrid body from the Censor’s list of citizens was up to standard for my work. It was unhygienic, irreligious, and put me off my food.

In my time I had operated for perjurers, petty bankrupts and frauds. I swore court affidavits to denounce high-born senators for debauchery so gross that even under Nero it could not be covered up. I found missing children for rich parents who would better abandon them, and pleaded lost causes for widows without legacies who married their spineless lovers the very next week – just when I had got them some money of their own. Most of the men tried to dodge off without paying, while most of the women wanted to pay me in kind. You can guess which kind; never a sweet capon or a fine fish.

After the army I did five years of that, freelancing. Then the Emperor made an offer that if I worked for him he might raise my social rank. Earning the cash to qualify would be next to impossible, but promotion would make my family proud and my friends envious, while seriously annoying all the rest of the middle class, so everybody told me this mad gamble was worth a minor insult to my republican deals. Now I was an Imperial agent – and not enjoying it. I was the new boy; so they saddled me with the worst jobs. This corpse, for instance.

The spiceyard where I had brought Frontinus lay in the commercial quarter, near enough to the Forum for us to be aware of the piazza’s busy hum. The sun was still shining; scores of swallows swooped against the blue sky. A skinny cat with no sense of occasion looked in through the open gate. From nearby premises came the scream of a pulley and a workman whistling, though mostly they seemed deserted the way warehouses and timberyards so often are, especially when I want someone to sell me a cheap plank of wood.

The Guards had succeeded in breaking open the lock. Frontinus and I tied scarves round our mouths, then hauled at the high door. A warm stench bellied out in our faces and we recoiled; its gust seemed to push our clothes clammily against our skin. We let the air settle then marched inside. We both stopped. A wave of primitive terror knocked us back.

A dreadful quiet hung everywhere – except where a horde of flies had been zooming for days in obsessive parabolas. The upper air, lit by small opaque windows, seemed thick with scented, sunfilled dust. The light below was dimmer. In the middle of the floor we made out a shape: the body of a man.

The smell of decomposition is milder than you expect, but quite distinct.

I exchanged a glance with Frontinus as we approached. We stood, uncertain what to do. Lifting the cloth gingerly, I started to peel off the toga that had been flung over the remains. Then I dropped it and backed away.

The man had been dead in the pepper warehouse for eleven days before some bright spark at the Palace remembered they ought to bury him. After lying so long unembalmed in a warm fug, the dead flesh was flaking like well-cooked fish.

We retreated for a moment while we braced ourselves. Frontinus gagged hoarsely. ‘Did you finish him yourself?’

I shook my head. ‘Not my privilege.’


‘Discreet execution – avoids an inconvenient trial.’

‘What had he done?’

‘Treason. Why do you think I’m involving the Praetorians?’ The Praetorians were the élite Palace Guard.

‘Why the secrecy? Why not make him an example?’

‘Because officially our new Emperor was greeted with universal acclaim. So plots against Vespasian Caesar don’t occur!’

Frontinus scoffed caustically.

Rome was full of men plotting, though most of them failed. The stand against fate which this one had taken had been cleverer than most, but he now lay stretched out on a dusty floor beside a blackened patch of his own dried blood. Several fellow conspirators had fled from Rome without stopping to pack spare tunics or a wine flask for the journey. At least one was dead – found strangled in a cell at the grim Mamertine prison. Meanwhile Vespasian and his two sons had been received in Rome with an unconditional welcome, and were settling down to reconstruct the Empire after two years of horrendous civil war. Everything, apparently, was under control.

The plot had been extinguished; all that remained was the disposal of its festering evidence. Allowing this man’s family to hold the normal public funeral with a procession through the streets, flute music, and hired mourners prancing around dressed as his famous ancestors had struck the suave Palace secretaries as a poor way to keep a failed conspiracy quiet. So they ordered a minor functionary to arrange a tactful errand boy; this clerk sent for me. I had a large family who relied on me and a violent landlord whose rent stood several weeks in arrears; for flunkeys with unorthodox burials to arrange I was easy prey.

‘Well, standing here won’t shift him—’

I hauled away the covering, exposing the body full length.

The corpse lay just as it had fallen, yet hideously different. We could sense how its innards were collapsing while maggots seethed within. I dared not look at the face.

‘Jupiter, Falco; this bastard was middle-class!’ Frontinus looked troubled. ‘You ought to know, no middle-ranker passes on without an announcement in the Daily Gazette to warn the gods in Hades that the shade of an eminent person is expecting the best seat in Charon’s ferryboat—’

He was right. If a body came to light wearing clothing with the narrow purple bands of a Roman knight, busy officials would insist on knowing whose son or father this worthy specimen had been.

‘Let’s hope he’s not modest,’ I agreed quietly. ‘He’ll have to be undressed…’

Julius Frontinus muttered my brother’s rude word again.

SHADOWS IN BRONZE Copyright © 1990 by Lindsey Davis

Meet the Author

Lindsey Davis was born and raised in Birmingham, England. After taking an English degree at Oxford and working for the civil service for thirteen years, she "ran away to be a writer." Her internationally bestselling novels featuring ancient Roman detective Marcus Didius Falco include Venus in Copper, The Iron Hand of Mars, Nemesis and Alexandria. She is also the author of Rebels and Traitors, set during the English Civil War. Davis is the recipient of the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger Award, the highest accolade for crime writers, as well as the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award and the Authors' Club Best First Novel award.

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Shadows in Bronze 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
robroy More than 1 year ago
Lindsey Davis continues her tale of Roman PI Falco in this twisty mystery set in first century AD Rome and surrounding areas. Falco is still living a lowdown life, as informers do, even though he has started a love affair with the higher status Helena Justina, a senator's daughter. The palace sends him looking to reel in a couple of brothers who had involved themselves in a failed plot to take down the new Emperor Vespasian and now have gone AWOL (senators are not allowed to absent themselves from their duties in Rome without the emperor's permission). Falco goes undercover as a lead pipe salesman in Herculaneum and finds himself up against the noble Helena's murdered ex-husband (or is he?)and an on-going plot to rid the Empire of Vespasian. Lots of interesting backstory and historical details, and a really gripping ending. Highly recommended.
kpet More than 1 year ago
SHADOWS IN BRONZE is a great puzzle that will keep you guessing unti the end. Marcus Didius Falco is on the hunt for a missing heir, and possible killer. Also in the mix, a plot involving the Egyptian grain shipments and a couple would be emperors. Falco sets out on holiday with Petronius Longus, while searching the countryside. He meets up with Helena Justina, also on vacation. A tour of the Campania countryside, with side trips to Pompeii, Naples, and other fun spots. Falco has his work cut out for him. A great mystery, and a great detective. Highly Recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will admit, I am totally hooked on Marcus Didius Falco! I find the books fast paced and easy to read with interesting characters and story lines. I especially enjoy the relationship between Helena Justina and Marcus. The ancient Rome setting works and really plays to my college classical studies minor ;)
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axgiggles More than 1 year ago
Really love these books!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
What is this why not read this book. I thas everything that you want. It is beuatifully written and is everything that a good reader should want. I love this book and should most other people. Lindsey Davis is a great author. Please read this, trust me it is a great book. Open your hearts and read this. Don't worry if you like it because MFD and HJ continue. So men, women of all ages come and read this book. You won't regret this. The experience is something that you won't forget.