Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saturnalia by Lindsey Davis

This is the 18th book (yes, I know can hardly believe it myself!) in the Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis. If you haven't picked up a Falco book yet, go do so now! The first in the series is the Silver Pigs, but they're all worth a read. There are probably going to be spoilers ahead if you haven't read any of the other books so be warned!

It's Saturnalia (Roman equivalent of Christmas) and everyone is in party mood. However amid the merriment a dangerous enemy of the state has escaped from house arrest and Didius Falco, informer has been charged with the task of finding her. Not only has she escaped but she also seems to have murdered a member of a high ranking family during her escape. At the same time his brother in law goes missing after a marital spat over said escaped felon. Added to that Falco has a group of soldiers working undercover to assist him, but they seem more interested in celebrating the holidays than helping out. Juggling his wife Helena, his two children and extended family with the investigation Falco finds, as usual, life is never quiet.

As soon as I started reading this book I relaxed. I love Davis' style and find it comfortable and easy going. It's like slipping on your favourite pair of shoes or an old jumper. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it came alone at just the time I needed a bit of comfort reading! Her characters are so beautifully created, from Falco's no nonsense mother to the beautiful, intelligent Helena who keeps Falco in line. You feel as if you could know some of the characters in your own life! There are definitely characteristics that transcend the centuries, like the way the soldiers try to avoid work or how Helena's parents acted when she and her brothers were little. There are some incredibly funny moments that showcase Davis' skill. She manages to mix humour, romance, violence, crime and mystery into one coherent story. You never feel that what you're reading is irrelevant to the plot.

It should also be added that Davis has researched her historical period well and is pretty accurate.

I seriously would advise that you read the series of Falco books from the start. A lot of the characters will only make sense if you have read the previous books, despite Davis' attempts to remind the reader the history behind each aspect of the story. It also helps you to appreciate the Roman way of life. I have an interest in Roman Britain and the Romans in general so I came to these books with a certain amount of background knowledge. I find that reading these books had brought the subject to life and made me understand how each piece I'd looked at fitted into the whole. Although human nature rarely changes the way the day is structured, the politics and the institutions differ so much and they are so intertwined with the plot in these books that Davis does well to explain them to those who don't know about it.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to all Falco fans, Davis is back on form. I would advise the entire series to anyone who likes TV programmes like The Last Detective or who likes a crime fighter with a life beyond work.

For more information about Lindsey Davis and the Falco books visit her official website.

*4 stars*

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