Many, many years ago, good fortune led me to a copy of Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis. I have steadfastly followed Marcus Didius Falco’s career through all twenty books in the Falco series (adventure/crime novels set in ancient Rome). They were all enjoyable, though of course some were better than others. Falco is a strong personality and the variety of the mystery plots mixed with the interpersonal problems of Falco, et. al. remained entertaining. That said, it was clear that the series was reaching the end of its natural life. Falco was aging. His children were growing up. His relationship with his wife had been explored to the point that Helena risked becoming dull. So, what next?
Lindsey Davis gives us The Ides of April. The book jacket calls it– Falco: The Next Generation.
Fans will remember Flavia Albia, the British orphan Falco and Helena adopted. A little wild, sharp-eyed and sharper-tongued, Flavia Albia is now a widow nearing thirty, twelve years after Falco has retired from informing/investigating to take over his father’s antiques business. Falco is rich and respectable. Flavia Albia has taken up his somewhat disreputable career. She has also taken over his old Fountain Court apartment and office.
Can Flavia Albia live up to expectations?
Albia sets out to investigate, whether the higher-ups want her help or not. Naturally, this gets her into trouble. Dangerous trouble.
I had a mixed reaction to Albia as an informer, some of which may be due to nostalgia for Falco. If you’re wondering–no, he makes no appearance in this novel. Albia has to sink or swim on her own, both as a legitimate investigator and as a legitimate protagonist in a novel, so she can’t rely on her much-loved, much-respected father for help.
And yet, his echoes are there. Albia attempts to mimic his ironic/cynical way of thinking and his smarty-alecky backtalk. She uses sexual innuendo and slang along with the vigiles, the local enforcers of law and order, just as Falco used to do. But it didn’t quite click for me. Falco’s voice was always natural and amusing. Albia’s was forced. It always sounded just a little off.
Albia does investigate. She talks to the subjects she was supposed to interview and reports back her findings. But I figured out long before she did who the criminal was and, from quite early on in the book, I was cringing at her poor judge of character. An investigator should have better instincts, shouldn’t she? (Because frankly, if I can solve the mystery before you do, you have no business in the mystery-solving business.)
So I sound disappointed, and yet. . . by the end of the book, I was drawn in. Albia is surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast. The serial murders, based on a real historical event, was well-plotted and believable. And the male lead was a fascinating, complex character. In fact, he may be more of a draw for reading book two than Albia.
If you’re a Lindsey Davis fan wondering whether to start this new series, go ahead and give it a shot. But if you’ve never read Lindsey Davis’s mysteries, I’d recommend starting with Silver Pigs.
This is my 21st book of 25 read for the Historical Fiction Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry.
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