Intrigue for Private Eye in Ancient Rome

Article excerpt

Ode to a Banker By Lindsey Davis (Century pounds 15.99). Reviewed by Bill Pardoe.

It is interesting to speculate why Birmingham-born and brought-up Lindsey Davis decided to write crime-stories based on a first-century character in Rome. She must have done Latin at KEHS in Edgbaston but when she went up to Oxford, she read English.

Whatever the reason, when she started to work for the Civil Service and to write in her spare time, she started with romantic fiction. After a time, she wrote a novel about Vespasian, Emperor of Rome in the first century AD and his mistress. As a result of her researches into that affair, she became fascinated by the period and wrote her first book about Marcus Didio Falco.

Ode to a Banker is the 12th book about him and he has become so popular that at a recent count, more than half a million paperback copies of the Falco stories were in print.

When Falco first appeared, one critic likened him to a 'Philip Marlowe in Ancient Rome', but he is very different from Raymond Chandler's great creation. Falco is, of course, a sort of private detective, an 'informer' is what he calls himself; and he does have some of the cynical, 'talking out of the corner of his mouth' style of narrative, so much a characteristic of all the American private eyes. …