Shadows in Bronze is the second book in the Falco series by Lindsey Davis.
It is 71 AD. Marcus Didius Falco, a private investigator living in Rome, has the rather unpleasant task of disposing of a body eleven days dead and decaying, a job given to him by the Emperor Vespasian. The man was part of a conspiracy to overthrow the Emperor, and whilst his treasonous activities had caught up with him, the rest of the conspirators flee Rome.
But when they start dying in mysterious circumstances, Falco is sent to persuade them to return to Rome for their own safety and to try and make them see that Vespasian wants to reconcile with them, not make an example of them. In order to do this, Falco must travel across Magna Graecia and the Campania in an attempt to track them all down.
His job is made even harder by the ever-present shadow stalking him wherever he goes. Who is it? And what do they want?
To complicate matters, his relationship with Helena Justina, a senator’s daughter, seems to be only getting worse. And the further into the investigation he gets, the more it seems that Helena might somehow be involved…
Shadows in Bronze continues where The Silver Pigs (book #1 in the Falco series – read the review here) left off, and it does so seamlessly.
In this second instalment, we see a number of the characters we were introduced to in the first book make a welcome return, including Falco’s best friend Petronius Longus and the woman Falco has fallen in love with, Helena Justina. We are also introduced to a number of a new faces: Larius, Falco’s nephew; Nero, an ox; Arria Silvia, Petro’s wife and Caprenius Marcellus, Helena’s dead ex-husband’s adoptive father.
The places visited as we move through the book are well-described and come to life with ease. As Falco travels around the Bay of Naples especially, we see the Roman world at perhaps its most colourful…fancy boats, luxury villas and holiday homes, country estates whose vineyards climb the fertile slopes of Mount Vesuvius. (It is eight years before the cataclysmic volcanic eruption that destroys Pompeii and Herculaneum).
Lindsey Davis is an extraordinarily talented writer who manages to combine historical accuracy with a number of plots, sub-plots and a rich cast of characters, creating an engaging, entertaining and memorable read.
I can’t recommend this book (or the series) highly enough, and I am looking forward to re-reading book 3, Venus in Copper.