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Carry On Falco
The Silver Pigs - Lindsey Davis
Member Name: sunmeilan
The Silver Pigs - Lindsey Davis
Advantages: Interesting idea and setting
Disadvantages: The "Carry On" humour
Although not a great fan of historical crime fiction, I did really enjoy Ellis Peter’s Cadfael stories, and when I found out that there was a series of books by another author set in Ancient Rome, I thought that they would be worth a try. This book is the first in the series, which introduces us to “private informer” Didius Falco, who is the Ancient Roman equivalent of a modern day private investigator. Since this book was published in 1989, at least sixteen more books have followed and there is something of a cult following for Lindsey Davis’ books. Unfortunately, I struggled to appreciate the admiration others have for these books.
It is AD 70 and Marcus Didius Falco bumps into a beautiful young girl, sixteen year old Sosia Camillina. She is fleeing from two thugs who seem intent on doing her a good deal of damage. As the niece of a Senator, it seems the thugs have good reason for wanting to catch her, but when she is found dead, it is clear that the situation is much more serious than Falco originally presumed and involves some missing silver. He is recruited by the Senator to find out what has happened to the silver and to avenge his niece’s death.
Following the trail, Falco travels to England, where he spends a period of months working as a miner in the deadly silver mines, with the aim of finding out where the leak of silver is occurring. On the plus side, he meets Helena Justina, the Senator’s daughter, with whom he has a love hate relationship. Will Falco find out what has happened to the silver? And what about the death of Sosia Camillina?
Falco is a potentially promising character that fails to deliver, at least in this book. Within about 2 pages, I had the feeling that I was reading the equivalent of a Carry On film. Falco could easily have been played by Sid James, so keen is he on a bit of slap and tickle. There is something vaguely offensive about this – I think because the author is a woman and the way that she writes seems to almost condone sexist behaviour.
Falco doesn’t find out clues as much as fall over them (literally). His constant quips, rather than being funny, just become annoying after a while. Overall, he is an annoying character that I would have been quite happy to see fall flat on his face.
Helena Justina is a marginally more likeable character. She is a recent divorcee, as a result of which she is very bitter and harsh in her attitude towards men. As such, she treats Falco with the scorn that he deserves. Nevertheless, she is still not a character to whom I warmed all that much. As the more serious character out of the two, she is very much a caricature and is therefore unbelievable.
I like to watch the odd Carry On film. They are meant to be daft and they meet expectations. With this book, I was expecting a serious piece of work based on scholarly research, something along the lines of Ellis Peters’ books, so I was a little surprised to find that the book was a comedy. That is still no reason to write it off – Janet Evanovitch’s books are a mixture of crime fiction and comedy and work really well. However, the constant quips and smart retorts in this book were just too frequent and I felt that the author was trying too hard to be funny, with the result that after the first few laughs, it just became very trying.
Perhaps another disadvantage of concentrating so hard on the humour is that the story just wasn’t all that good. At times, I lost the gist of what was going on, although I have to admit that it could have been because I just wasn’t all that interested. Whatever, I could have very easily put it down and not bothered to pick it up again – it is only because I hate to give up on a book before I have reached the end.
The style of writing is, as can be expected, simple and light, which I must admit does suit the style of the book. Anything more literary would have been a waste of time.
I am not very familiar with Roman history and I have no idea how close to the truth the setting of the book is. Reading about the author in other reviews, it would seem that she has spent a lot of time trying to get the details right; this is very commendable, but unfortunately it is put to waste against such weak characters and plot.
I am well aware that this series has a great following and I have heard that it goes from strength to strength after this book. However, it is just not my cup of tea and I really can’t recommend it.
The book is available from play.com for £5.59. It is published by Arrow and has 318 pages. ISBN: 0099414732
Summary: Certainly not my cup of tea