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Sunday, September 10, 2023

'Falco: The Complete BBC Radio Collection' by Lindsey Davis


From the BLURB: 

Full-cast BBC Radio 4 dramatisations of the first five Falco novels by Lindsey Davis, starring Anton Lesser as Marcus Didius Falco.

The Silver Pigs:

 One fine day, AD 70, Sosia Camillina quite literally runs into Marcus Didius Falco on the steps of the Forum. It seems Sosia is on the run from a couple of street toughs, and after a quick and dirty rescue, PI Falco wants to know why. Hoping for future favours from Sosia's powerful uncle, Falco embarks on an intricate case of smuggling, murder, and treason that reaches into the palace itself.

Shadows in Bronze:

 Rome, AD 71. Against his better judgment, Marcus Didius Falco secretly disposes of a decayed corpse for the Emperor Vespasian, then heads for the beautiful Bay of Naples with his friend Petronius. But this will be no holiday: they have been sent to investigate the murderous members of a failed coup, now sunning themselves in luxurious villas and on fancy yachts in Neapolis, Capreae, and Pompeii. 

Venus in Copper:

 A small accounting error has left Marcus Didius Falco sharing a cell with a large rat. But the Roman Empire's most hard-done-by investigator is finally bailed out and promptly accepts a commission to help a family of freed slaves fend off a professional bribe....

The Iron Hand of Mars:

 Falco is dispatched to one of the most hostile parts of the empire to deliver a new standard, an iron hand, to one of the legions. Germania is cold, wet, dismal and full of dark forests inhabited by bloodthirsty barbarians, but Falco has an even bigger problem to worry about: he has forgotten Helena Justina's birthday, and she is being pursued by the Emperor's son Titus Caesar. 

Poseidon’s Gold:

 Returning to Rome after his mission to Germania, Falco finds that his mother is being harassed by a centurion named Censorinus, who says he is chasing a debt owed to him by Falco's late brother, Festus. When Falco refuses to cough up the money, he and Censorinus end up fighting...and later, the centurion turns up dead. Under suspicion of murder, Falco must confront his past and uncover his brother's secrets before he can clear his name and solve the mystery.

These funny and fast-moving adaptations are a treat for all Falco fans.



Okay, I started listening to the first X5 'Marcus Didius Falco' books by Lindsey Davis, adapted for BBC radio (Dramatised by Mary Cutler, Directed by Peter Leslie Wild) because my library had them on the BorrowBox app.

I'd been vaguely aware of this series as a great recommendation of a Historical Crime - but given that they were first published in 1989 and there's currently 32-instalments across two series, it just seemed like a huge investment of time, money and resources .... step in local library and BorrowBox, not to mention how entertaining and *wonderful* this condensed BBC Radio Play was!

I think this series is absolutely brilliant; a gumshoe Roman-noir detective series set in AD-70 and featuring a wiry, jaded and sleazy 30-something ex-soldier who is somewhat scarred from his time fighting against the Boudica-uprising.

The first book in the series 'Silver Pigs' has Falco getting entangled with a Senator's family with a missing daughter whom Falco stumbled across and tried to help ... this has him becoming embroiled in a far great conspiracy scandal against the Roman Empire that Falco finds himself being hired to investigate (difficult, since he's also an avowed Republican - given he still has memories of Rome under psychotic Nero).

From the first book he meets the missing girl's cousin, Helena Justina - and she becomes his HEA and one-true-love throughout the rest of the series. I absolutely *love* this aspect, since I can only get invested in ongoing crime-series if there are relationships and romances established from the jump (hello, Karin Slaughter) and I rather love that Helena is far too good for Falco (and he knows it) but she sees and brings out the best in him, and the two spar and sizzle on the page.

Lindsey Davis does a marvellous job of bringing Rome to life and moulding her crime-of-the-week plot-lines around fascinating tidbits of Roman history; from their Legions to their love of art and culture, all within the seedy underbelly of Rome - the literal centre of the universe and first Empire. It has actually made me want to visit Italy for the first time, if only because the history Davis paints is so vivid I feel compelled to reach out and touch what's left of it ...

The BBC Radio Play truly is marvellous, and with a rich acting list;

Falco — Anton Lesser

Helena — Fritha Goodey/Anna Madeley

Petronius — Ben Crowe

Ma — Frances Jeater

Pa — Trevor Peacock

Vespasian— Michael Tudor Barnes

Titus —Jonathan Keeble

I cannot even begin to tell you how awks it is that I found Anton Lesser's voice to be so sexy in this (he who played Qyburn in 'Game of Thrones') and now that I'm getting deeper into Falco fandom, I also appreciate that many of them Fan-Cast Andrew Scott in the role, if it is ever adapted (and that is *spot-on*!)

I do know some fans were disappointed that to condense the books down to 2-4 hour radio-plays, much of Falco's interiority got cut for pacing - and that's apparently where he truly shines, and we see his cleverness and humour - so I am most looking forward to hunting down secondhand copies of ALLLLLLLL these books (R.I.P. my wallet) and getting stuck into a book-reading of the series to properly meet un-edited Falco. I might skim-read the first 5 books, just to make sure the BBC put me in good-standing and foundation for the rest of the series, but overall I'm just so grateful that they offered me a taster into this far-reaching and epic series and now I know for sure that it's right up my alley.


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