Rome, AD 70. The city melts under a scorching August sun. For Marcus Didius Falco, hard-bitten private investigator the summer holds few prospects other than spying on the faithless wives of the Empire's senators - and his broom-wielding mother sweeping out the latest rope dancer with the dust from his seedy sixth floor aparetment.
One day in the Forum, Falco comes across the very young, and very beautiful, Sosia Camillina. Saving her from the unwelcome attention of two jelly-brained thugs with kidnapping in mind, the chance encounter seems to open new horizons. But Rome is going through a critical and turbulent period. And somehow working on Sosia's behalf proves to be less straightforward that Falco could possibly guess. The appearance of a stolen silver pig (a silver-bearing ingot of lead) leads Falco to a plot to overthrow the new Emperor, Vespasian. Not that Falco cares over much for those who run the state, but th eprospects of Sosia and incoming funds proves irresistible.
Then a murder which dents even Falco's well-worn cynicism makes discovery of the conspirators his only reason to live - even if it does mean the dismal prospects of a country he had hoped to never see again. Britain in winter, the Mendips lead mines. Disguised as a slave, Falco is treated with harsh contempt and cruelty, putting his life in danger as he discovers how, and by whom, the ingots are smuggled. Add to that the firy pride of Helena Justina, the disdainful daughter of Sosia's senator uncle, and Falco's hardships double.
The discoveries Falco makes in this bleak land draw him inexorably into the heart of treachery and conspiracy at the highest levels. His return to Rome leads him further into the labyrinth of political greed - and love.
Written with the same dry humour as an American gumshoe novel and with an unerring eye for historical detail, The Silver Pigs introduces a serial hero in Marcus Didius Falco who could be Ancient Rome's answer to Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade.
And you thought that those books that I have listed for the From the Stacks challenge were just there to look pretty. Nope. It really IS my intention to read them.
Having said that, I am going to cheat big time and link to Rosario's review of this book. It is soooo darn hot here I can't think, and it is going to stay this way for at least another day. No sleep here tonight unfortunately!
I will say that one of the criticisms that I have heard from a couple of people about this series in general is that the main characters sounds too much like a modern American gumshoe detective, and he does, but that is completely part of the charm for me! He's so self deprecating and funny that you can't help but fall a bit in love with Marcus Didius Falco!
My rating: 4/5