After reading the first book in Lindsey Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco series, I was pretty sure that it was one of those book series that I could easily marathon my way through if I wasn’t careful. Now that I’ve finished Shadows in Bronze, the second book in the series, I’m certain that’s the case. I’m going to make a point of pacing myself, however, because they also strike me as being the kind of series where if I read them too fast, I will grow tired of the premise or the style simply because of overexposure. They’ve been the perfect break for when I’ve just come through something I’ve found more difficult or challenging (or boring or tedious), and I think I’ll continue to use them as a palette cleanser of sorts.
Picking up a week or two after The Silver Pigs left off, Shadows in Bronze finds Didius Falco working for the emperor Vespasian to help tie up the loose ends from the recent plot to overthrow him. This includes everything from disposing of bodies, helping to go through the confiscated estates of conspirators, and tracking down other probable conspirators to bring them around to Vespasian’s rule (bribing them with positions and other means). Falco is also navigating the tenuous relationship he and Helena Justina (the ex-wife of one of the dead conspirators) may or may not have embarked upon as that plot was uncovered and defeated. But when those former and probable conspirators begin turning up murdered, Didius Falco’s job gets more complicated and the tasks Vespasian assigns him take him away from Rome.
As with the first book, it took a few short chapters for me to acclimate to the narrative style of the novel as well as the quick pace and multitude of plot threads whipping about, but it’s an energy and sense of humor that I enjoy. It had been a little longer than I realized since I’d read the first book and I wasn’t expecting so many elements of the plot (and characters) to carry over. But that connective tissue between the books was part of what I liked most about this second book and I truly hope it continues along through the series.
I know I mentioned how modern certain things about the first book could feel, and that continued in this second book, specifically in Didius Falco’s expressed personal opinions—and particularly those related to consent and women’s rights. The issues of class and power felt more prominent in this book as well, now that Didius Falco is working directly for the emperor and his interactions with senators and the ruling class have a different angle. Seeing him periodically chafe against his personal beliefs—both when he encounters those in power who are inept and those he reluctantly admires for their ability to game the system.
What I enjoyed most about this second book in the series was the time spent engaging with Didius Falco’s family and close friends. We see more of Petro and his family and are introduced to Didius Falco’s nephew, Larius—who will hopefully make further appearances in later books as well. As I said, I’m going to pace myself as I work my way through this series (though I also already know that there is a spin-off series or continuation of sorts, so it isn’t as though I’ll run out of these books for a while).