Shadows in Bronze by Lindsey Davis

I like breaking down fiction. I say that while often raging at a culture that seems more intent on appreciating fiction in its components rather than as its whole, but I do. It’s part why I review. But with Shadows in Bronze, I see no better way to celebrate Lindsey Davis’ novel than as a supremely satisfying whole.

For those who don’t know, Shadows in Bronze is the second book in the Falco series, a set of murder mysteries set in Ancient Rome (in the time of the Flavians for all my history nerds). Our heroes are the plebian informer Falco, a playful take on the noir private eye by way of a cheeky British lad around town merged with a bit of ancient Rome, and Helena Justina, a fiercely principled and intelligent patrician woman.

In Shadows in Bronze, the obvious narrative between the two is in a deliciously awkward, spiky phase. It is further complicated by the fact that the murder Falco is investigating is linked to a conspiracy involving Helena Justina’s divorced husband and uncle. That they’re both deceased doesn’t make it much easier for Falco and Helena.

The mix of murder investigation, romance, conspiracy busting, and Falco’s wonderful narration of ancient Roman life is perfect. Everything is told in his voice and through his emotions and thoughts; his voice is distinctive, his emotions and thoughts wide ranging. His scathing opinions on the Greek settled towns of southern Italy are endlessly good reading. The story bounces from hilarity to tragedy to triumph with impeccable timing. I said I wouldn’t break it down, but what makes the whole is how many elements there are and how seamlessly they fit together.

I have read this book many times. It simply gets better and better. Lindsey Davis at this point arguably my favourite author after Pratchett, because she shares the same trick of writing books that are riotously entertaining comfort reads and sharp edged and thoughtful, all at the same time. That trick is on full display here, and there’s still another eighteen books in the series to reread. That, my friends, feels like heaven. And I thoroughly encourage you to get in on the scam.

6 thoughts on “Shadows in Bronze by Lindsey Davis

    1. Then this is thoroughly recommended. Any other good recs you’ve collected?

      My other recs here would be Ellis Peters (Cadfael), Elizabeth Eyres (Sigismondo), Robert van Gulik (Judge Dee), and Peter Tremaine (Practically everything, no seriously – like the Fidelma and Egyptian stuff best – Egypt’s under Peter Doherty).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Brill, thank you!
        I’ve read a handful of the Cadfael books (and used to love the tv show), but haven’t tried anything else on your list.
        Have had Andrew Taylor (Restoration London series), Ariana Franklin (Mistress of the Art of Death series) and Antonia Hodgson (18th Century London) recommended to me, but I’m more intrigued by Falco and Ancient Rome as a setting at the moment, so I think I’m going to try Lindsey Davis first. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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