The Silver Pigs

This is the first novel and introduces the main characters as well as establishing relationships that continue and grow throughout the whole series; therefore this is my most lengthy summary. In this novel, Falco stumbles upon a conspiracy in the trading of silver ingots, but not before it claims the life of a young girl (Sosia Camilla) whom Falco meets and is smitten with. Hired by the young girl’s uncle, a Senator, to find out who murdered her, and by the Emperor Vespasian, to uncover the conspiracy, Falco finds himself on the next boat to Britain.

Once there he meets a lady way out of his class, Helena Justina, daughter of the Senator who hired him. At first sight it is mutual loathing, he hates her class and she hates his prejudice. Finding himself working down a silver mine, acting as an escaped slave, Falco learns the meaning of hate, pain and abuse. After being rescued by Helena and a friendly Centurion, Falco heads back to Rome, as the reluctant charge of the even more reluctant Helena.

Naturally, after spending so much time together, lots of arguments, misunderstandings and denial, Falco and Helena fall in love (subsequently consummated in a horse stable in a public garden!). Eventually, Falco sorts out the case, and only has to bring the culprits to justice. However, there is no justice when one of the culprits is one of the Emperor’s own sons. As for the other culprits, only one remains alive, and that person is very close to the girl Falco loves and her Senator father. After a final, bloody, retribution is carried out in the climax, Falco is offered the chance to be raised to the middle class, the equestrian rank. As an equestrian Falco could marry Helena without bringing her or her family shame, which is something he could never manage on his meagre earnings alone. He refuses, seeing the offer as a bribe to keep the whole conspiracy thing hushed-up. After realising his mistake and how he must have insulted Helena, he returns to Vespasian and asks for the chance again, but is told he must first raise the 400,000 pieces of gold. Dejected he returns to his dilapidated tenement in the Aventine and there finds Helena waiting for him. She promises to wait for him for as long as it takes.

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