The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco Series #1)

The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco Series #1)

by Lindsey Davis


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The Silver Pigs is the classic novel which introduced readers around the world to Marcus Didius Falco, a private informer with a knack for trouble, a tendency for bad luck, and a frequently incovenient drive for justice.

When Marcus Didius Falco encounters the young and very pretty Sosia Camillina in the Forum, he senses immediately that there is something amiss. When she confesses that she is fleeing for her life, Falco offers to help her and, in doing so, he gets himself mixed up in a deadly plot involving stolen ingots, dangerous and dark political machinations, and, most hazardous of all, one Helena Justina, a brash, indominable senator's daughter connected to the very traitors that Falco has sworn to expose.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312614249
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 09/13/2011
Series: Marcus Didius Falco Series , #1
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 120,441
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

The Silver Pigs

A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery 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.


Excerpted from The Silver Pigs by Davis, Lindsey Copyright © 2006 by Davis, Lindsey. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

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The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco Series #1) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
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
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.
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.
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.
TrinkaG More than 1 year ago
Wonderful series to dive into if you are a mystery buff OR a fan of Roman history. You will learn history in the most painless and amusing way if you read these books! I love the main character, Marcus Didius Falco and his entourage that just increases with each book. Very human and believable characters. Give it a shot & you will be adding to your personal library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love historical mysteries that have been well researched, but my favorites will always be those that include a good deal of comic relief, as all the Falco mysteries do. Once you read any of them, you are tempted to read them all, and reading them from first to last published is a particular treat. I highly recommend them.
bookswamp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
1st sequel of the adventures of private eye Marcus Didius Falco, starting in AD 70; very amusing, good plots, interesting insights into the daily life of ancient Rome (1989)
Pompeia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first in a detective series placed in Ancient Rome and its provinces. Marcus Didius Falco starts his investigations on behalf of the emperor Vespasian and incidentally meets the love of his life in cold and misty Britain which he certainly will not come to miss. Good for light reading and nice for those who like books on Ancient Rome.
teckelvik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I treasure this book, because Ellis Peters personally recommended it to me. (Yes, that's name dropping. No, I didn't know her personally, it was at a book signing.)I love this book, indeed the whole series. Davis has recreated ancient Rome in a thoroughly believable way. The characters are three dimensional and vivid, and the protagonist is both skilled and not overly so.I also love the romance between Marcus and Helena, all prickly offended pride on her part and stubborn pride on his, and the way they get together makes sense for both of them.The mystery is fun and reasonable, the denoument doesn't rely on hidden facts that we never had a chance to find out.Also really important to me - the writing sparkles. The dialogue and the description alike are really well done.
babydraco on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ehh. I enjoy the voice of the narrator, and the wonderful little historical details. But sometimes Marcus Falco's typical Roman arrogance and obliviousness isn't funny, it's upsetting. I know it's probably accurate, but looking back on it from the future, I keep wanting to say "look around you!" The big climax takes place during a Triumph for a very famous and horrible conquest of a nation, and it's just background noise for the characters. This is particularly troubling after what Marcus survives in this book.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love both well-done historical fiction and mystery, so I have a particular affection for hybrids like the books by Ellis Peters or Carrie Bebris. Given the setting in Imperial Rome and the smart alleck first person voice, this sounded like a blend of Gladiator and The Big Sleep only more historically accurate and Marcus Didius Falco, who has a lively sense of humor, is much more appealing than Philip Marlowe. In her introduction, Davis acknowledged her debt to the private detective genre and how she enjoyed pulling some reversals--specifically in allowing her Falco to be attached to both family and a romantic interest, Helena Justina. I think that's actually a lot of what I find appealing in Falco. He has friends, a very large family and he allows himself to fall in love. I can't judge well how accurate the history is--I can say it gave at least the illusion of being accurate, a vivid sense of life in Ancient Rome and Roman Britain, without giving the sense of a mindset truly alien to the modern age in the way of Mary Renault or Colleen McCullough in her Master of Rome series. And it does that despite the very contemporary sounding, sometimes anachronistic lingo. On the other hand, despite the at times satirical look at Roman politics, I didn't get the feeling of a political agenda superimposed as with the Steven Saylor mysteries set in ancient Rome. Davis isn't the prose stylist equal of a Mary Renault or Mary Stewart or even Collen McCullough, either. But the book was enjoyable enough, the characters appealing enough, I might try the next book in the series. And that's fairly rare when it comes to the mystery series I've tried.
annbury on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Terrific historical detective novel, which introduces the intrepid Marcus Didius Falco and his girlfriend, the aristocratic Helena. It's an irresistable combination: a powerful presentation of ancient Rome (it really does come alive) with a hero who recalls a classic American hardboiled private eye. In this novel, there is also an interesting mystery, and a romance where you really care what happens. If only Ms. Davis had maintained this standard beyond the first few books of the series ---
ksmac on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful beginning to a great series about a Roman private eye who is dispatched by the Emperor to investigate the theft of silver "pigs" from mines in Britain. Great detail.
morriss003 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The beginning of one of the most fascinating series that I ever had the pleasure of reading. If you are in to mysteries, romance and historical novels that are set in the ancient world, then this is the series for you. Lindsey Davis is a thorough researcher. Her maps will be poured over, her references to historical figures are accurate. Her hero's grouchy attitude is always humorous although at a moments notice she can plunge the story into dark and dangerous territory.
jaygheiser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable mystery novel starring a private detective who lives in 2nd century Rome.
cathymoore on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think I'm a little bit in love with Marcus Didius Falco! Fantastic characters that leap off the page combined with some obviously well-researched descriptions of Ancient Rome and Roman Britain. This is the first in a series of novels featuring Falco, a private detective with an overbearing mother set in 71AD. Falco takes a case requiring him to uncover a plot against the emperor Vespasian and to retrieve some silver ingots (the pigs). The author's fantastic comedic touch really makes the difference here and I'm looking forward to reading the rest in the series.
TadAD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Most historical mysteries are either light on the mystery or light on the flavor of the time period. This is neither. The start of a great series full of great characters.
daniel.links on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It does what it sets out to do. The central character is a private investigator in Rome, and investigating a bullion scam takes him to the slave mines of Cornwall and back again. Personally I could have done without the love interest, but I'm a cynic, so I don't hold it against the book. An entertaining mix of genres, and not a bad story holding them together either.
juliapequlia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marcus Didius Falco is very different from Steven Saylor's Gordianus the Finder. Marcus is a bit of a crude party-boy, but his intellect and wit are keen. Most Flaco mysteries are set in Rome, but this is one of the few in which he travels the Roman empire, this time ending up as a slave in a British lead mine. Putting that misery aside, it's a fun 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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