Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Oldest "Living" Detective

After a (not so) brief break from "Detectives" series, we are back with the non-desi detectives. And to start off, we bring you the oldest "living" detective.

Marcus Didius Falco (series by Lindsey Davis):

Apparently, the lot of a Personal Informer in the roman times was not so different. He had to work on divorce cases, sometimes was treated worse than the criminals he investigated, and got the girl at the end (if not girls in between).

Luckily for Marcus, he literally bumps into an important case. When he uncovers the plot surrounding the missing silver pigs (ingots, which are used to pay the Praetorian Guard, the emperor's personal bodyguards), he gains the favour of the Emperor Vespasian, who is establishing himself on the throne.

Unfortunately for Marcus (and quite otherwise for us), the tight purse strings of the emperor means that Falco has to work as an imperial spy, at the same time handling the same-old murder and divorce cases. While this makes him an enemy of the Chief Spy Anacrites (whom Marcus easily outwits when necessary), it also means he can have two masters pay him for "important" cases, a fact he uses shrewdly.

He meets his lover, later wife and partner, Helena Justina, on his first case. A Senator's daughter, she is a headstrong, yet loving woman, who handles Falco's family as well as the pressures of his dangerous job quite well. Elegant, highly intelligent (and well-read being a Senator’s daughter) and thoroughly stubborn, she is at the same time perfect and highly inappropriate (given the times and their social ranks) match for Falco.

Falco, on his own is not an easy man to handle either. A soldier who served (but did not fight) in Britain during Boudicca's revolt, his military service has given him valuable experience. He is well aware that being a spy and a PI, puts him on almost the last rung of any hierarchy (though his social "rank" improves thanks to the royal favour), but has wits and brute force more than enough to survive in the cut-throat world. Being a staunch republican, he frets before taking up the job for Vespasian, but love conquers his personal beliefs.

Amidst the rich descriptions of post-Nero Rome, its culture, class relationships and festivities, what makes these novels really special is the wit and sarcastic commentary by one Marcus Didius Falco. Having a horrific murder or two, and a beauty or two doesn't hurt either.

Note: The age of the persons, as mentioned in the series refers to how old they would be if they had lived till today, and has nothing to do with the age as per canon. "Living" means that the author is continuing the series, as opposed to "non-living" where either the author cannot continue the series, or the character is dead according to canon.

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

P.S. From now on, The "Detectives" series will be a monthly (possibly twice-monthly) feature with non-desi detectives.