Birmingham, Reino Unido, 1950

She read English at Oxford. Her first published fiction was romantic serials. She started writing about the Romans with The Course of Honour, the remarkable true love story of the Emperor Vespasian and his mistress Antonia Caenis. Her research into First Century Rome inspired The Silver Pigs (1989), the first outing for Falco and Helena. Starting as a spoof using a Roman ‘informer’ as a classic, metropolitan private eye, the series developed into a set of adventures in various styles which take place throughout the Roman world. Its devoted readers follow the friends and family of her hero (and his dog, Nux) as avidly as they devour the mysteries he investigates. Her books have been translated into many languages. The Silver Pigs won the Authors’ Club Best First Novel award in 1989. She won the Crimewriters’ Association Dagger in the Library and Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, while Falco has won the Sherlock Award for Best Comic Detective. She has been Chair of the UK Crimewriters’ Association, Honorary President of the Classical Association and Chair of the Society of Authors. She was awarded the Premio de Honor de Novela Historica Ciudad de Zaragoza (2009), the Premio Colosseo by the city of Rome for enhancing the image of Rome (2010), the Crimewriters’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement (2011) and she was the inaugural winner of the Barcelona Historical Novel Prize (2013).

 

Carmen Balcells Literary Agency represents the author for Spanish language and Portuguese language (Portugal).

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Novel

Manlius Faustus decides it is time he had a proper job, which Flavia Albia can only applaud. When he goes into the family business and starts renovating a bar, it can only be a matter of time (for this is a crime novel) before bodies start turning up. Does every low dive in ancient Rome have a longtime missing barmaid? Not to mention other buried bones that are destined to hold up the aedile’s project – bones that were clearly not put there by the landlord’s dog. Helped and hindered by members of the vigiles, Albia braces herself for a week of fast food among even faster bar staff, as she tackles the difficult task of solving a decade-old murder, not to mention learning what happened to that dog.

She is less delighted by her lover’s second idea: that to demonstrate their happy union publicly they should have a formal wedding. Her teenaged sisters think it a brilliant wheeze. Julia and Favonia throw themselves into planning the event regardless of cost and propriety, even bringing back Genius, the cook who can’t cook. For Albia it is a race against time to solve her case before she has to set aside her disgruntlement and put on the saffron veil like a happy bride. Meanwhile everyone is unaware of just how electrifying the gods will make this ceremony…

 

When a decaying corpse is discovered by her father’s staff as they prepare for an auction, Flavia Albia steps in to take responsibility and get the container washed hygienically. For a better view of her suspects as the bidding hots up, she takes over the gavel. I can already hear the outraged cries of hidebound traditionalists who think Roman men were men and their women stayed invisible. Albia has her own ideas of helping a family business.

Meanwhile Manlius Faustus is helping an old friend stand in what passes for an election in undemocratic imperial times; he persuades Albia to help dig up dirt for spin-doctoring purposes, allowing them to marvel at the appalling candidates and see more of each other. Albia soon starts to suspect a mysterious link to her corpse – but surely no one would murder a candidate or a voter; can politics be that dirty? Then where, she soon wonders, is the supposedly devoted wife of the ‘good family man’ that Faustus wants them to support?

And can it be that the romance she keeps telling us isn’t going anywhere is going somewhere?…

This is a novella, a whirling spin-off from Lindsey Davies spin-off. It is narrated for us hairy barbarians by Marcus Didius Alexander Postumus, a boy convinced of his own intelligence and superiority, although he is only twelve (or perhaps eleven) and more vulnerable than he thinks. Carried off to be with Thalia, his birth mother, he brings his ferret, Ferret, his only friend, together with a determined curiosity to learn who his father is. This may not be good news for those he deems to be possible fathers.

When something happens to Ferret, Postumus proceeds to investigate the crime in the style of his adoptive father Falco and his big sister Albia. In the process he wreaks every kind of havoc.

Meanwhile Thalia and her acrobatic troupe and animals, with Davos (remember him?) and his actors, and even Sophrona who plays the unforgettable water organ, are trying to persuade Manlius Faustus to book them for the Roman Games. The central attraction is to be that rip-roaring comedy, the prototype for Hamlet written by Falco, The Spook Who Spoke. So will anybody get to see the play? Will Postumus kill the producer or burn down the stadium? And are we finally to discover whose Spook it is – and whatever it was he said?…

 

« Every slave is an enemy », said Seneca

When a newly-married couple are violently robbed and murdered in their apartment, the vigiles take the easy way out and accuse their household slaves. The slaves seek refuge in the Temple of Ceres, a more reluctant haven of liberty than tradition claims. Albia’s new friend Manlius Faustus is tasked with persuading the runaways to leave. He hires Albia to help him work out what really happened…

First of a new series of crime novels set in Ancient Rome and featuring Flavia Albia, the adopted daughter of much-loved Marcus Didius Falco.

Based on real historical events: mysterious poisonings, in which victims died, often unaware they had been attacked. Albia is now 28 and an established female investigator. Her personal history and her British birth enable her to view Roman society and its traditions as a bemused outsider and also as a woman struggling for independence in a man’s world.

The first novel takes place on the plebeian Aventine Hill, with its mix of monumental temples, muddy back lanes and horrible snack bars. We meet Albia’s personal circle – some familiar, some new. We glimpse old haunts and hear of old friends, but the focus is on Albia herself, a tough, witty, winning personality who fearlessly tackles inhumanity and injustice, braving any risks and winning the friendship of unexpected allies.

As long as war exists, this story will be relevant.

Martin Watts, a bookseller, is captured by Royalists. Jane Afton’s brother Nat is taken too. They suffer inhumane treatment as prisoners-of-war.

In Oxford Castle, jailor William Smith tortures, beats, starves and deprives his helpless victims. Can Jane rescue her sick brother before he dies of neglect? Will Martin dare to escape?

Based on real events in the English Civil War, Lindsey Davis retells the grim tale of Captain Smith’s abuse of power in Oxford prison – where many died in misery though a lucky few survived.

 

Set in the reign of the Emperor Domitian in First Century Rome, Master and God is meticulously researched and narrated with serious ambition. We know Domitian killed flies with his pen – how did a fly view this? Who killed the dancer – and was it illegal? Trajan’s column denigrates the barbarian Decebalus – but what chance Europe could have had a Dacian Empire instead? What snacks should be served at a high-powered committee meeting summoned to discuss shedding the ruler it is charged to protect? When a Chief Vestal Virgin is buried alive for adultery, what are the logistics to ensure there are no riots? What kind advice would a female friend give to a Roman soldier who has committed bigamy by accident while in the throes of alcoholism and impotence, at the same time as he is organising a political death squad under a loathsome regime that threatens her personal friends and her divorced husband?

This novel’s reach stretches from the glories of monumental Rome to a prisoner-of-war camp above the snowline the wrong side of the frontier. Its settings include barracks and bars and quiet domestic rooms, the fabulous Flavian palace on the Palatine, Domitian’s fortress villa at Alba Longa, a villa that may have belonged to the poet Horace. It scoffs equally at the military life and poets. Even the doctor is paranoid.

« I was in my teens when I first started caring about the English Civil War, which has always appealed to my libertarian ideals, even though the attempt to install a republic failed and many of the great questions are still being fought over. To take one very pertinent issue, we are still debating what support should be given to soldiers who are injured in government service, and whether there should be a duty of care to the widows and children of those who are killed. The New Model Army felt passionately about that – mutinied over it even – and so do the forces who are serving today in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In this book, Civil War events are a crucial element of the story, along with the struggling Commonwealth that followed. It was the dawn of modern journalism, a key moment in publishing. ‘Ordinary’ people took up the struggle and felt able to act and speak on their own initiative in ways that had never happened before. Even civilians suffered horribly. I think that what happened between 1642 and 1658 was extraordinary and should be much better known.

In a welcome change from the first-person, single-viewpoint narratives of the Falco series, I was able to follow several characters. My hero, Gideon Jukes, fights for Parliament, associates with the Levellers, and attempts to stave off the demise of the Commonwealth by working for the intelligence service in the face of sometimes curious enemy plots. (What a relief to write about a man who is tall, fair-haired and blue-eyed too!) My heroines are primarily Juliana Carlill, who marries a professional soldier on the Royalist side and has to survive for years as a lone wife and mother while he is away fighting on both land and sea. The there is Kinchin, a scavenger for whom nobody is fighting, so she has to fend for herself at the raw end of society. »

Lindsey Davis

So, in 1989, readers were introduced to Marcus Didius Falco, the Roman informer, as he stood on the steps of the Temple of Saturn, looking out across the Forum: the heart of his world. Twenty years and twenty books later, Falco fans want a companion volume.

Only here will readers learn the author’s private background, including her descent from a failed assassin and how atheism improved her knitting. Here too are the real glories and heartache involved in research and creation: why the baby had to be born on Barcelona, which plots evolved from intense loathing of management trainees, what part was played in the iconic Falco’s conception by a thermal vest. It can’t be a complete handbook to ancient Rome, but it covers perennial issues. There are a hundred illustrations, some specially commissioned, others from family archives. Enlightening quotations come from the Falco books and from eminent sources: Juvenal, through Candler, to 1066 and All That.

 

 

 

Falco takes a bodyblow from two personal tragedies, then is hammered by good fortune – even harder to endure. Escaping the demands of family life, he makes the first of several trips to the coast where he stumbles upon a mystery. Unexpected disappearances of innocent citizens are the relief he needs. Soon Petronius has an interest too. The friends have shared plenty of grim adventures but now it’s Petro’s turn to get stuck with a hideous location and horrible suspects, in this case the dread Pontine Marshes where the air exudes death and a foul bunch of freedmen to whom ‘friends at court’ is a talisman. Nobody wants the Claudii for neighbours – and nobody wants them in Rome either.

One evil location precedes several that are worse. There are heart-broken women and manipulative men, singers to shun, caterers to curse, Anacrites makes friends by hosting a dinner party (‘Don’t eat the mushrooms’ advises Glaucus) then two families collide; one of them will disintegrate, but few will escape damage. Even Falco and Petro are to learn shocking things about themselves. The subject is families – so expect it to be dark.

 

 

Lindsey Davis’ challenge here was to write a book set in ancient Egypt that would have no pharaohs, few pyramids, no respect for sacred cats, hardly any details of mummification rites, no duck hunts on the Nile, no peasants, no shadoufs and no Archimedes’ screws.

Mission accomplished: Falco, Helena and their immediate family, including Aulus, go to Roman Egypt to see more of the Seven Wonders of the World. Uncle Fulvius and Cassius, later joined by Pa, are up to some pensioners’ scam, getting in the way, while Falco looks into high academic culture at the Great Library. This is home to all the knowledge of the world – though when the corpses start appearing in the customary odd circumstances, it takes more than great minds to understand Who Did It. The academic world festers while management dithers, diplomats dose, undertakers fib and businessmen diddle. The Pharos is shrouded in mist and the Pyramids lost in a sandstorm. A sinister wind blows up out of the desert, adding to the hot air even before the arsonist sets things alight. Fortunately a mad inventor is on hand – and Falco just happens to know how his most useful invention works…

 

The Greeks had a word for everything – and the Romans invented the rest. The Golden Age of tourism was the First Century AD, when the site guides – then as now – babbled incomprehensibly, the hotels were always under construction and when things went wrong, the travel companies did not want to know. Mountain scenery was panoramic but roads were rough, beds were hard (where they were available), fellow travellers were ghastly and the weather could only be relied upon to be foul. Those who died abroad knew the Roman port authorities would try to charge import duty on their ashes, especially if they came home in a luxury urn…

Aulus, now a model student, has met an interesting man. He has heard an intriguing story about two dead women at the ancient site of the Olympic Games. His mind is supposed to be set on Athens not athletics, so Falco is sent out to ensure the scholar finds his university without being sidetracked by sport, corpses, or the Seven Wonders of the World. There are sites, sights, statues, oracles, and curiosities of foreign food. The Roman governor is on holiday. The gods, when they are not angry, are decidedly bilious.

 

 

 

The Greeks had a word for everything – and the Romans invented the rest. The Golden Age of tourism was the First Century AD, when the site guides – then as now – babbled incomprehensibly, the hotels were always under construction and when things went wrong, the travel companies did not want to know. Mountain scenery was panoramic but roads were rough, beds were hard (where they were available), fellow travellers were ghastly and the weather could only be relied upon to be foul. Those who died abroad knew the Roman port authorities would try to charge import duty on their ashes, especially if they came home in a luxury urn…

Aulus, now a model student, has met an interesting man. He has heard an intriguing story about two dead women at the ancient site of the Olympic Games. His mind is supposed to be set on Athens not athletics, so Falco is sent out to ensure the scholar finds his university without being sidetracked by sport, corpses, or the Seven Wonders of the World. There are sites, sights, statues, oracles, and curiosities of foreign food. The Roman governor is on holiday. The gods, when they are not angry, are decidedly bilious.

 

All those doubters who query ‘Was there really a Daily Gazette?’ will find the Acta Diurna carefully explained to shut them up. Falco visits Petronius and his favourite brother-in-law, Gaius Baebius, at Ostia while on a missing person hunt for a vanished scribe. Fun and frights and family pressures colour a sunny adventure beside the sea (NB we know our Hero cannot swim…) There would be pirates – had not Pompey cleared the seas of pirates, as everybody knows. Perhaps we shall learn what pirates do when they are not being pirates any more.

At least, Falco assures himself, there are no dead bodies in this one. Regular readers will know what that means. A little boy comes to tell the vigiles that his mummy won’t wake up, for starters. The topiarist in fear of his life. Even Gaius Baebius takes sick leave. And that’s before we meet the sailors who want to play games with their gangplank, the mysterious Illyrian (who may not be Illyrian at all), the boy racer speeding in the flash chariot at rush hour, and the girl with too many romantic ideas.

 

 

Needing to re-establish their presence in Rome, Falco and Associates become embroiled in the legal manoeuvres of Silius Italicus and Paccius Africanus, real-life uppercrust informers who thrive on exploiting the sins of the rich. Rubirius Metellus, an average senator (corrupt, nasty, hated by his relatives and possibly incestuous) has committed suicide to avoid paying his bills. It’s a neat trick if you can get away with it, but he won’t because Silius wants his huge fees and Paccius is advising most of the family, including the favoured ex-daughter-in-law, while M Didius Falco is on hand to defend old-fashioned concepts like justice for the innocent. Aulus takes an interest in agnates, Quintus gains an heir, Helena distrusts the ingénue and Falco risks his future using oratorical skills we have never imagined he owns. With poisoned pills, magic practices, women in labour, old Senate scandals and an appearance from dumb judge Marponius lined up, things are tricky even before the impiety charge – and that may be the end of everything…

 

Beer but no oysters… It’s holiday time for Falco and Helena – until a character he had disposed of reappears, dead, and causes a diplomatic incident. Naturally Julius Frontinus and Flavius Hilaris are thrilled that they have Falco on hand to sort it for them.

Although Londinium is at the end of the world, it’s attracting all kinds of entrepreneurs: the best kind, the worst kind, and lawyers. Most of the streets are not even paved, yet they are as mean as in any city where the bad guys think they own the place. Bad women lie in wait as well, and some of them already know where hard man Falco has his soft spots. With an angry wife, a moody sister, Maia’s increasingly dubious suiters, and a fractious Petronius, Falco has enough to contend with. Then he gets lumbered with an outraged king, a traumatised orphan, corruption, inefficiency, and British fast food outlets.

Plus Chloris. He knows Chloris. He knows her all too well.

Personal tragedy and political crises vie for the attention of both Falco and Petro, the one with a job he doesn’t want, the other with a task he can’t admit, and both dogged by faces from their past…

 

 

 

Now it’s stippling and scumbling: fun with home makeovers – until the latest machinations of cast-off lover Anacrites pose a darker threat than normal. Falco and Helena take as many of their family as possible away from danger. Five years after they met in Britain, they go back there – to the fabulous royal palace at Fishbourne, its grand extension still on the drawing board and likely to remain there without careful management. Public Building projects never run smoothly, but few have as many hitches as this one. Two different architects jostling to take charge of the site don’t help – though that may be dealt with – and the place is awash with dodgy contractors.

From the odoriferous gift left behind by bath house supremos, Gloccus and Cotta, to the fresher corpse in the Great King’s opulent quarters (and the other body!) Falco faces one challenge after another, all the time auditing scams for Vespasian and trying to teach his grumbling assistants how to be of use to him. Will he ever get to London? (No, but then he doesn’t want to go!) A night out watching a dancer sounds excellent relaxation – but the dancer may be Perella, Anacrites’ murderous agent, the dive where she whirls her stuff is a dingy downtown bar full of fighting labourers, and even the artwork may turn nasty. Not the moment for toothache, especially with a dentist you don’t know.

 

 

Thalia has lost an expensively trained water-organist; then Anacrites, the devious Chief Spy, makes his most dangerous appearance, this time persuading Falco to travel to Nabataea – preceded by a friendly message that the dwellers in Petra might like to peg out the Roman adventurer for the crows. Discovering the body of a dead playwright on the High Place offers a chance to dump the official mission and look for Thalia’s missing musician instead. Falco and the indomitable Helena join a seedy group of theatrical players for a jaunt around the Decapolis cities that eventually leads to Palmyra at the crossroads of the eastern and western trade routes. It would be a holiday – but for the scorpions, evangelists, perpetrators of human sacrifice, drought, plague, and constant reminders that they have a murderer in their midst. Undaunted, Falco takes up his stylus and writes the Plautian prototype for ‘Hamlet’ – though a donkey, a python and the threat of a riot conspire to ruin his first night.

 

Undeterred by his previous disasters, Falco gives a poetry reading: an illustrious audience, a spectacular locale – and a tedious patron of the arts who subsequently becomes the Body in the Library. Brought in by Petronius, Falco tangles with unscrupulous bankers, publishers and authors (actual and would-be), despising all of them and trusting none. Once again the vigiles watch and wait for him to fail.

Meanwhile, Pa is in trouble, Ma is the subject of unseemly gossip, Maia is restless, the dog is pregnant, Gloccus and Cotta have yet to finish their bath-house contract, and Anacrites is hovering dangerously, trying to move in on the family in several worrying ways. As the enforcers gather to encourage suicides and the writers’ group twitters hopelessly in the Temple of Minerva, the summer heat rises while Rome echoes to the sound of commercial institutions crashing and needy authors being dropped after failing to meet deadlines. The safest ploy is to stay at home reading a good book. But are there any to be had, when heartless commercialism governs editorial decisions, and anyway the most promising scrolls are covered with blood?

Who ate the flan? Where is the other evidence? And will Falco be able to assemble all the suspects for a showdown in the Greek Library, then force the killer to come clean so he wins a confession bonus from the penny-pinching vigiles?

 

 

 

In the third, and final, book of the ‘Partners’ trilogy, Falco was intended to work with Helena’s nice brother, Justinus. That seemed too good to be true, so he acquires a trickier helper – not to mention both his previous partners, Petronius and Anacrites, who hover around hoping to see him fall flat on his face.

An appeal to help a young child draws him reluctantly into the world of the Roman state cults – in which Fortune has given him a role of his own, though as he says, up to his boot-thongs in goose shit. A member of the Arval Brethren is murdered in their Sacred Grove, causing a sinister cover-up by the establishment, while the Vestal Virgins Lottery looks equally murky and is complicated by an association with Queen Berenice of Judaea that has attracted gossip. Hemmed in by patriarchal priests and their inbred offspring, grappled by Virgins without consciences, and imprisoned under threat of execution, Falco was already in enough trouble trying to look after his widowed sister and her heartbroken children – and that’s before he has to dangle upside down over a very deep hole, supported only by the three partners who may be only too happy to drop him…

 

 

Still reluctantly seeking the perfect work companion, in the central book of the ‘Partners’ trilogy Falco has submitted to his Ma’s machinations and taken on Anacrites (moonlighting while on sick leave from the Palace). The Chief Spy is thrilled. Falco is depressed. The author is nervous. Will her readers accept a story in which Falco & Partner become hardworking government tax auditors? Will her editor allow a corpse that isn’t human? Will animal lovers riot? Is there any mileage in a missing plant hunt? Will plant lovers protest? Will the Anacrites fanclub allow Falco to exact revenge? If serial killing is hard to do tastefully, what about gladiating? How to avoid the cliché of threatening little Julia with Carthaginian child sacrifice? Will the Sacred Geese of Juno survive the poisoned corn, and will they come good for our boy?…

The first in a loosely planned trilogy in which Falco succumbs to pressure and tries to find a partner to work with: here, his best friend Petronius Longus. Petro’s life is in every kind of crisis, so perhaps the last thing he needs is to join Falco in a search for the serial killer who has been dumping dismembered bodies in the aqueducts. Lacking forensic tools, hampered by administrative indifference, and dogged by the tiresome Anacrites – now championed by Falco’s Ma, who thinks he’s wonderful – the new partners discover unexpected tensions that may destroy their relationship; that’s assuming Petro’s dangerous girlfriend gangster’s daughter Milvia doesn’t do for him first. Or her terrible mother. As the author faces up to the task of handling a gruesome story in a sensitive manner, convention decrees that the killer is bound to attack someone we know – but who?…

Determined to write a Police Procedural, our author belatedly discovered that the vigiles were the Fire Brigade. So this is a groundbreaking Fire Brigade Procedural: still scope to dwell on the squaddies in the station house complaining about the poor pay, the dangerous work, the abuse from the public, the disinterest of their superiors. Falco joins his best mate Petro in a desperate attempt to stop gangsters taking over Rome, forcing the intrepid pair into brothels and horrible eating houses, as they encounter waterside fleecers, Forum degenerates, bad men who want to cut out their innards and women who want worse things than that. Helena is pregnant and Falco finds a baby for her to practice on. He adopts a dog (well, Nux adopts him). His family is in trouble of various kinds, and even Lenia at the laundry has terrible plans which will end in a hot wedding; the sacrificial sheep won’t be the only one who gets barbecued …

Two mysteries from the incomplete ‘Histories’ of Tacitus provided the ideas for the plot of Falco’s German adventure. It falls to him to end the rebellion of Civilis and Veleda, who had tried to create a united Celtic Europe. This he does in his own unusual fashion, helped by Nero’s barber (out of work since Nero’s suicide) and by a shy lad who likes talking to girls. In Falco’s way stands an uppity legion, who have a notorious past in Britain, and Titus Caesar, angling after Helena. There are corpses which have vanished in the murk of the rebellion, corpses Falco finds in ditches, the ghosts of long-dead legendary corpses – and, as Falco and his offbeat party tramp the barbarian forests, they face a serious risk that they will end up dead themselves.

« A tantalising half-sentence in Suetonius’ biography says that after his wife died, Vespasian ‘took up again with Caenis, his former mistress and one of Antonia’s freedwomen and secretaries, who remained his wife in all but name even when he became Emperor’. To a would-be romantic novelist struggling to find an original setting, this was the archetypal secretary-to-boardroom plot — a true story, with a decent hero, not to mention a heroine who must have had a sterling character. The political events familiar from ‘I, Claudius’ are viewed from a close vantage point, but without the traditional male, aristocratic bias which some people even today try to impose on all things classical. A love story in which young lovers come together a second time in their middle age would be highly unusual at any period.

Even though people who read this novel thought it my best, the Roman setting deterred publishers for ten years. When it did finally appear in the UK, many readers enjoyed it even more than the Falco series. The script was originally turned down in America — causing a unique protest from US readers who mobilised on the Internet and forced a rethink; this may be a ‘first’!

It was The Course of Honour that gave me the idea for Falco. Most obviously, researching the historical background to Rome — so vibrant and so notoriously dangerous — inspired his working milieu. In fact, though, professional writers are often led by sheer desperation. I had given my all to Antonia Caenis, with whom I closely identified: a single woman in a society geared to families, an intelligent woman working in a hostile male environment, a sceptical woman viewing the idiocies of politics through helping to administer them. When The Course of Honour went to the back of the wardrobe, I was broke – but I had found my courage as an author. Without that, The Silver Pigs would never have been written. Without Falco, my story of Caenis would not have seen the light of day … »

Lindsey Davis

Our hero, having discovered true love, has enough to worry him even before shadowy figures glimpsed late at night and a series of fatal accidents convince Falco and the Emperor that traitors are still conspiring and must be brought to book. Mourning Helena, who seems to want to abandon him, Falco sets off on a ramble through the Roman holiday spots, acquiring a goat on the Toe of Italy and accompanied around the Bay of Naples by his best friend Petronius – a member of the official police force who has somehow won himself a reputation as a ‘respectable family man’. This is the story in which the author learned never to kill off useful characters – but in fiction there is always a solution.

Falco attempts networking to boost his career. A disastrous night ends with a hangover and murder; he doesn’t achieve even a smile from the dancing girl, then he finds himself forced to take responsibility for his desperately injured enemy, the Chief Spy Anacrites. Mere weeks before Helena is due to give birth, Falco and she set off to unravel an oily conspiracy in southern Spain. Lying in wait are tycoons with low motives, murderous women in disguise, and a slippery trail laid by the Roman equivalent of that bureaucratic nightmare, the Admin Trainee; he knows nothing, thinks he can do everything, and wants something more than is good for the Empire. Falco believes the power of the privileged may be impossible to thwart – and for devious commercial motives, even the Emperor may not welcome his attempt. Will the lamps dim and the scented bath oil run out in Rome? And will Falco keep his promise to be with Helena at the dangerous moment when their baby is born?

Most historical novelists dream of a very long series family tree that will take them from the Normans to the First World War; the Falco family just has a very wide one… This extended tribe, originally pasted in as horrible wallpaper, finally take over our hero’s life. Commissioned by his mother to exonerate his late, lively brother from a catalogue of appalling schemes, Falco first finds himself suspected of murder, then – worse – compelled to work with his father: Geminus, a favourite with readers for some strange reason. Even Helena is arrested by Petronius as she tries to assist, not realising that the Didii are beyond help. After lots of fun with an art scam and the brief chance to own his own Phidias, Falco finally assembles the money he needs to win promotion to the middle rank, yet in any tale involving his loved ones, there have to be more twists waiting to thwart him.

Deliberately conceived as a classic private eye dilemma: Trying to forget the indignity of being bailed from jail by his mother, Falco accepts a case from nouveaux riches private clients. Meanwhile he is trying to lure Helena Justina to live with him, which may prove extremely dangerous, given the notorious instability of Roman real estate. When the man he is protecting dies (mother was right: don’t lick your plate) our hero finds himself paid off and rehired by the chief suspect. She is a “professional bride”, or according to her, a nice girl who does a lot of sewing (and who owns a parrot with a curious turn of phrase). There is a closed circle of characters, all with suspicious motives; they are seedily unpleasant and their friends are worse. While investigating, Falco meets for the first time, Thalia, the exotic dancer, and Jason her sinuous pet. The clinching evidence is medical, eventually deposited with the Vestal Virgins for safety: lucky they don’t know what it is.

Marcus Didius Falco, a Roman ‘informer’ in 70AD, is standing in the Forum one very hot day, aiming to become a classic gumshoe in the Ancient World genre of mystery fiction… At this early point in his career, he has not only to make his way in the snobbish and dangerous milieu of Vespasian’s Rome, but to overcome the prejudice amongst publishers, booksellers and readers who are wary of historical novels and off-beat settings. Our hero takes himself to Britain; there the weather is filthy, the natives are restless, the women are angry, and his mission turns into a nightmare from which he only narrowly escapes alive. Along the way he meets brutes, traitors, his mother, sellers of seedy snacks, a blonde young lady who thinks he’s wonderful, the Emperor – and Helena Justina, whom the author had intended to be the chief conspirator – but who turned out to be far too spirited for that.


Prizes

1989 - Authors' Club Best First Novel  for La plata de Britania

Crimewriters' Association Dagger in the Library

Ellis Peters Historical Dagger 

1999 – Sherlock Award for Best Comic Detective

2009 –Premio de Novela Histórica Ciudad de Zaragoza

2010 – Premio Colosseo, Roma (Italia)

2011 – Crimewriter’s Association Cartier Diamond Dagger por su trayectoria

2013 – Premio Barcino I de Novela Histórica de la Ciudad de Barcelona