The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco Series #1)
  • The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco Series #1)
  • The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco Series #1)

The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco Series #1)

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by Lindsey Davis

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Readers and critics alike have fallen in love with Lindsey Davis's Marcus Didius Falco mysteries set in Ancient Rome. The Silver Pigs is the first book in this popular series…


When Marcus Didius Falco, a Roman "informer" who has a nose for trouble that's sharper than most, encounters Sosia

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Readers and critics alike have fallen in love with Lindsey Davis's Marcus Didius Falco mysteries set in Ancient Rome. The Silver Pigs is the first book in this popular series…


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….

"Davis makes Rome live."

Washington Post Book World

"Davis is both a deft storyteller and a scholar…a top drawer series."


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The intriguing premise of a detective story set in Imperial Rome in 70 A.D. is unpredictably fulfilled by Davis's hero-gumshoe, M. Didius Falco, an iconoclastic young republican. Falco rescues the niece of a senator from a kidnapping attempt, is attracted by both her innocence and the secret she keeps regarding a silver ingot (the ``pig'' of the title) and then stricken when her corpse is found in a spice warehouse. Hired by her family to track down the reasons behind her death, Falco spends the winter in Britain working as a slave in a silver mine. Enduring vividly depicted hardship with customary sharp-witted pluck, he picks up the hints of a plan to overthrow Vespasian, the current emperor. He also meets the senator's divorced, sharp-tongued daughter, Helena Justina, and brings her back to Rome where they work with--and against--each other to bring the well-developed plot to its satisfying conclusion. Wisecracking in ancient idiom, Falco seems, nevertheless, a recognizably up-to-date young man, one whose honor, humor and humanity work him quickly into reader's affection. Davis's story, though couched in period detail, rewards as much for deft handling of plot and depth of characterization as for its historicity. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Describe a detective in seedy surroundings, an impulsive young woman, intrigue in high places, and the plot sounds all too familiar. But, name the detective Marcus Didius Falco, place him in first-century Rome, and an entertaining newcomer to fictional detectives is introduced. In 70 A.D., Falco is a cynical observer of himself and society under the new emperor, Vespasian. An encounter with a senator's niece precipitates a sequence of events including murder, plots within the ruling family, and a trip to Britain to uncover thefts in the Roman silver mines. Woven into Falco's adventures are humor, romance, suspense, and clues for the discerning reader. The maps are helpful and even the ``Dramatis Personae'' is entertaining. Highly recommended for mystery or historical fiction collections.-- Ellen Kaye Stoppel, Drake Univ. Law Lib., Des Moines

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Marcus Didius Falco Series, #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.68(h) x 0.96(d)

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Chapter One

When the girl came rushing up the steps, I decided she was wearing far too many clothes.

It was late summer. Rome frizzled like a pancake on a griddleplate. People unlaced their shoes but had to keep them on; not even an elephant could cross the streets unshod. People flopped on stools in shadowed doorways, bare knees apart, naked to the waist—and in the backstreets of the Aventine Sector where I lived, that was just the women.

I was standing in the Forum. She was running. She looked overdressed and dangerously hot, but sunstroke or suffocation had not yet finished her off. She was shining and sticky as a glazed pastry plait, and when she hurtled up the steps of the Temple of Saturn straight towards me, I made no attempt to move aside. She missed me, just. Some men are born lucky; others are called Didius Falco.

Close at hand, I still thought she would be better off without so many tunics. Though don't misunderstand me. I like my women in a few wisps of drapery: then I can hope for a chance to remove the wisps. If they start out with nothing I tend to get depressed because either they have just stripped off for someone else or, in my line of work, they are usually dead. This one was vibrantly alive.

Perhaps in a fine mansion with marble veneers, fountains, garden courtyards deep in shade, a leisured young lady might keep cool, even swaddled in embroidered finery with jet and amber bangles from her elbow to her wrist. If she ran out in a hurry she would instantly regret it. The heat haze would melt her. Those light robes would stick to all the lines of her slim figure. That clean hair would cling in tantalizing tendrils against her neck. Her feet would slip against the wet soles of her sandals, runnels of sweat dash her warm throat into interesting crevices under all that fancy bodicework . . .

"Excuse me—" she gasped.

"Excuse me!"

She veered around me; I sidestepped politely. She dodged; I dodged. I had come to the Forum to visit my banker; I felt glum. I greeted this smouldering apparition with the keenness of a man who needs troubles taken off his mind.

She was a slight thing. I liked them tall, but I was prepared to compromise. She was wickedly young. At the time I lusted after older women—but this one would grow up, and I could certainly wait. While we sashayed on the steps, she glanced back, panic-struck. I admired her shapely shoulder, then squinted over it myself. Then I had a shock.

There were two of them. Two ugly lumps of jail-fodder, jellybrained and broad as they were high, were pushing through the crowds towards her, just ten paces off. The little lass was obviously terrified.

"Get out of my way!" she pleaded.

I wondered what to do. "Manners!" I chided thoughtfully, as the jellybrains came within five paces.

"Get out of my way sir!" she roared. She was perfect.

It was the usual scene in the Forum. We had the Record Office and Capitol Hill hard above us on the left; to the right the Courts, and the Temple of Castor further down the Sacred Way. Opposite, beyond the white marble rostrum, stood the Senate House. All the porticos were crammed with butchers and bankers, all the open spaces filled with sweaty crowds, mainly men. The piazza rang with the curses of strings of slaves crisscrossing like a badly organized military display. The air simmered with the reek of garlic and hair pomade.

The girl pranced to one side; I slid the same way.

"Need directions, young lady?" I asked helpfully.

She was too desperate to pretend. "I need a district magistrate." Three paces: options fast running out . . . Her face changed. "Oh help me!"

"My pleasure."

I took charge. I hooked her away by one arm as the first of the jellybrains lunged. Close to they looked even larger, and the Forum was not an area where I could count on any support. I planted the sole of my boot on the first thug's breastbone, then vigorously straightened my knee. I felt my leg crunch, but the draught-ox staggered into his evil friend so they teetered backwards like faltering acrobats. I looked around frantically for a diversion to cause.

The steps were crowded with the usual illegal touts and overpriced market stalls. I considered upending some melons but smashed fruit meant a diminished livelihood for their market gardener. I had a diminished livelihood myself so I settled on the tasteful copperware. Tilting it with my shoulder, I keeled over a complete stall. The stallholder's thin cry was lost as bouncing flagons, ewers and urns sped at a denting pace down the Temple steps, followed by their despairing owner and numbers of righteous passers-by—all hoping to stroll home with a nice new fluted fruitbowl under one arm.

I grabbed the girl and hared up the Temple steps. Scarcely pausing to admire the dignified beauty of the Ionic portico, I pulled her through the six columns and into the inner sanctum. She squeaked; I kept going at speed. It was cool enough to make us shiver and dark enough to make me sweat. There was an old, old smell. Our footsteps rang fast and sharp on the ancient stone floor.

"Am I allowed in here?" she hissed.

"Look pious; we're on our way."

"But we can't get out!"

If you know anything about temples you will realize they have a single imposing entrance at the front. If you know anything about priests, you will have noticed they usually have a discreet little door for themselves somewhere at the back. The priests of Saturn did not disappoint us.

I brought her out on the racecourse side, and set off south. The poor girl had wriggled out of the arena straight into a lion pit. I cantered her through dark alleys and pungent back doubles to home ground.

"Wherever are we?"

"Aventine Sector, Thirteenth District. South of the Circus Maximus, heading for the Ostia Road." As reassuring as a shark's grin to a flounder. She would have been warned about places like this. If her loving old nurses knew what they were doing, she had been warned about fellows like me.

I slowed down after we crossed the Aurelian Way, partly because I was on secure home ground, but also because the girl was ready to expire.

"Where are we going?"

"My office."

She looked relieved. Not for long: my office was two rooms on the sixth floor of a dank tenement where only the dirt and dead bedbugs were cementing together the walls. Before any of my neighbours could price up her clothing I wheeled her off the mudtrack that passed for a highroad, and into Lenia's distinctly low-class laundry.

Hearing the voice of Smaractus my landlord, we wheeled smartly back out.

Copyright © 1989 by Lindsey Davis. All rights reserved.

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The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco Series #1) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With its well developed characters, outstanding description of ancient roman life, and refreshing humor, Silver Pigs caught my attention and kept it throughout its pages. Falco is a simply wonderful character. He says and does as he pleases which gives him the facade of someone commonplace, but he is in fact smart and just tough enough to get the job done. Silver Pigs is so multifaceted and that is one of the things I liked about it. The mystery, wit, and romance that it braids into one tale is seamless. It is a book that I would absolutely reccomend to any lover of historical fiction, ancient rome, or mysteries.
LN_Adcox More than 1 year ago
EVERYMAN IN ANCIENT ROME As a historical fiction aficionado, I’m not sure how I missed this series all these years. Much of the appeal is that we can relate to Marcus Didius Falco as many of the problems he encounters in his daily life are the same ones we face 1,900 years later. The Falco series predates the Medicus series by Ruth Downie but they have this in common. Ironically both series are written by ladies that appear to understand men much better than men understand ladies. The sense of humor of the characters, particularly Falco, and the setting and culture of Rome adds to the appeal. Marcus Didius Falco is an informer which is close to what we would call a private detective. He is a former Roman legionnaire with Republican leanings, cynical and a bit more rough and tumble than most of us. The murder of a young lady has a deep impact on Falco and he seeks to uncover a plot against the Emperor Vespasian in order to find her killers. This becomes more complicated when he falls in love with her sister, Helena Justina, who is of the aristocracy well above his rank. His is also distracted by rent collectors on his tenement home, an overbearing mother, problematic sisters, nieces and nephews and deadbeat brother-in-laws. The list of characters is useful in keeping up with the host of characters involved in the plot. I’ve found another series that I’m stuck on.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got this because I enjoy David Wishart's books so much, and was fairly disappointed. The dialogue is strangely stilted, with a use of exclamation points that really brought me up short several times. The author hits her stride in the last quarter of the book, and I really enjoyed her description of the triumphal procession, but in general, it almost read as if she were trying to mimic a TV detective's voice-over narration. It was a real struggle to get through, and though the end left me thinking I'd like to follow the character's adventures a little further, I won't, because I can't put up with the writing style.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book, the first in a series starring Falco. Non-stop action, a wise-cracking protagonist, and lots of info I didn't previously know about the 1st-century Roman Empire. I'm sure there are some anachronisms in this book, but it's a small quibble. This was suggested to me by my Classics professor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story is so intricate and interesting that It was hard to put the book down.I loved the characters and the plot. I did get a little confused about the characters, though. there were way too many. But the writer makes up for that by her historically correct setting and her vivid discriptions. I recommend this book for anyone who loves mysteries, or who wants to learn about ancient rome. The author Writes this story in such a way that you'd have thought she had actually gone there and seen what the ancient romans were really like, but it dosen't sound like one of those dry textbooks that you have to read.
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BruceNM More than 1 year ago
This is a re-issue of the first novel in a mystery series that was first published about 20 years ago. It was recommended by a friend, and I'm glad I tried it. I would recommend reading The Course of Honor by the same author before starting the Marcus Didius Falco series, which is what I did.
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Karen Davis More than 1 year ago
What a fun read! I enjoyed getting to know Falco and look forward to reading the other books in the series. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a fun read set in an interesting peiod of history.
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