Review: The Silver Pigs, by Lindsey Davis
Another book in which the premise sounds like it was written, quite literally, just for me: a gumshoe of the traditional stripes of the PI fiction golden age, set in Ancient Rome. And, for the most part, this book worked on me exactly the way it was supposed to!
The main drawback for me is that the mystery isn't the best, or the most complex - Marcus Didius Falco is trying to ferret out a ring of conspirators who are basically counterfeiting coin, as well as trying to take down the emperor (I think?). There's a femme fatale, of course, who is a woman our main character can never, ever have. There's some shitting on British weather, which is always funny. But the mystery at the center of the novel is, at its core, both too complex and too uninteresting - there are too many moving parts, and too many names involved, that don't end up becoming a piece of the puzzle and so just serve to unnecessarily muddy the waters with Roman names I expended a lot of mental energy trying to remember.
But the relationship between Helena Justina and Falco was just so good - it was such a perfect example of two intellectual equals finding each other, and learning how to make a partnership work, and a woman who's prickly and temperamental but not being made out to be difficult or unlikeable for it. The way they end up relying on each other to solve the huge mess they've gotten themselves involved in - guys, I'm just going to say it, accusing the emperor's younger son of counterfeiting and murder is not something you do on a whim - and one of the things I'm most looking forward to reading in this series' subsequent books is how, exactly, Helena and Falco work it out. Because right now they are doomed! They are separated by a gulf of rank and class!
Another high point - spectacular research and an excellent sense of setting and time period. I felt totally transported to Ancient Rome and then Roman Britain, and the period details of clothing and food and scenery was just perfectly dosed to feel completely real, but without feeling extraneous or overdone.
I also really enjoyed the way Davis set up the following books in her series - she's sketched out the start of an overarching narrative and storyline, but hasn't emphasized it to the point where I ever felt like her writing this book was an attempt on her part to spin it out into a franchise that'll make her money. I just got the impression that she liked her characters, she believed in their stories, and she's looking forward to telling some more of them.
This was a good book, I really enjoyed it, and I will be reading at least the next book (although I will purchase it once I again have money).
A very enjoyable way to start my reading month!