Some people pour over trashy magazine gossiping about the rich and infamous; some drool over the spare change paperback romances. Personally when I need some brainless entertainment Lindsey Davis shows the way.
Marcus Didius Falco, an Informer (Ancient Romes equilivant to a Private Detective) is the star of 18 novels and the author of a play (The Spook Who spoke from Last act in Palmyra) and various poems. But Falco’s talent is not in the arts but in getting himself in and out of trouble all over the Roman Empire.
His friends (the ones that try to keep him safe and whole) include most if not all his family of which he is the Paterfamilias and responsible male adult, old army buddy who now works for the vigils (semi military fireman cross police) Petronius Longnius, and the love of his life and often his partner in crime Helena Justina, daughter of a senatorial family.
His not-so friends (the ones that would be slightly upset if he was hurt or in pieces) include big names like the emperor of the day, Vespasian and his eldest son Titus (though it’s never quite clear if he belongs in the third group) who often ask him to do jobs for the state that require discretion, most if not all his brother’s in law and possibly Falco’s dog, Nux.
His enemies include Anacrites, chief of the palace spies and jealous of Falco’s successes, Domantian, Vespasian’s youngest son and treasonous troublemaker that Falco exposed and possibly Titus for their rivalry for the love of Helena Justina.
The Falco novels though set just after the excess and chaos of the Claudian emperors, are not strictly historical novels. You are introduced to a world that no longer exists but funnily enough looks very much like our own. Falco’s jaunts around the empire remind us how strange and unusual a civilised and well run city like Rome was and how wild the provinces were in comparrison.
I love the first person wise cracking internal dialogue we as readers are privy to and I love the complicated but tight-knit relations Falco has with Helena, Petronius and his family.
So, if your sick of reading about starlet after starlet ruin their lives or steer clear of the granny warming bodice-busters and just want to read a intriguing mystery that will ocassionally make you laugh out loud, give Falco a go.