The Silver Pigs, by Lindsey Davis, is the first book in the Marcus Didius Falco canon, a series of detective novels set in ancient Rome. Marcus, an Imperial informer (translation: private detective) trying to scrape together a living, narrates the story with a breezy, humorous style making this romp through Flavian Rome a real treat for the reader.
When Sosia Camilla, a beautiful, young golden-haired girl, meets a tragic end in an old warehouse, Marcus determines that he will stop at nothing to find the killer. Just prior to her death, Sosia had accidentally become involved in an investigation of silver smuggling. Unmelted ore from Britain (here’s where the name Silver Pigs starts to make sense), earmarked for Emperor Vespasian, has gone missing, and Marcus has an unsettling suspicion that Vespasian’s son Domitian might be involved–and that the ore might be payment for a coup to unseat the emperor.
Forced to travel to Britain to see the mines for himself, Marcus meets up with Sosia’s cousin Helena, a divorced woman deeply hurt by her ex-husband’s indifference. They travel together back to Rome and in the midst of their Beatrice-Benedick banter learn to like each other a great deal more than either will let on. Marcus succeeds in coming up with a list of all the conspirators save one, and it takes a life and death struggle to learn the missing name that innocent Sosia was too ashamed to speak.
I enjoyed this book so much that I took a holiday from cooking and housecleaning to read it all in one afternoon. Fortunately, the twins cooperated by taking a very long afternoon nap. I’m pleased to learn that there’s twenty novels in the series, and with the library’s kind cooperation, I’ll be spending a few more afternoons with Marcus Didius Falco in the forseeable future.