SILVER PIGS by Lindsey Davis


Email this review


Davis' first novel tells the familiar story of a hard-boiled detective whose rescue of a young gift on the run gets him involved in murder, theft, corruption, and an attempt to bring down the government. The twist is that the loquacious, indomitable detective is the informer Marcus Didius Falco, and the government the Roman Empire under Vespasian. Falco's client, Sosia Camillina, 16-year-old daughter of wealthy tradesman Publius Camillus Meto and niece of senator Decimus Camillus Verus, tells him that her uncle is hiding something in her bank box, something that turns out to be a silver pig--a 200-pound lead ingot filled with silver ore from Britain. Uncle Decimus claims that the pig is part of the evidence of a steady theft of silver from the mines in Britain, a theft on so large a scale that it endangers the financial health of the empire; and when Sosia Camillina gets on the trail of the conspirators in theft, one of them kills her. Vowing to avenge her death, Falco allows himself to be shipped off to primitive Britain to work as an undercover agent in the silver mines; and although we never get to see him doing any actual detecting, he unearths a widespread conspiracy involving both the Camillus brothers and the ruling family before falling in love with the senator's willful daughter Helena--a divorc‚e whose ex-husband will be a crucial piece of the puzzle while he is returning as her escort to Rome, where more adventures and revelations lead to a suspiciously anachronistic showdown. More historical romance than mystery, since the detective plot is largely sunk under the weight of vigorously deployed period detail. But Falco and Helena make so strong an impression that a series seems assured.

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 1989
Publisher: Crown