The Silver Pigs
Rome, 70 AD, the troupe called Flavianus has been in town for a short time. The Old Man is Emperor, and is yet to have his Triumph. Well, Titus is still busy in Judea …
Falco. A sweet young lass of 16 bumps into him in the Forum, evading jelly-brained thugs. Falco, man of valour, gives succour and nurture. Well, maybe Ma Favonia (Falco’s mother) is a better informer. The poor girl has no known mother.
Plotting against emperors was common. All 600 senators (millionaires, no less) were required to reside in Roma, and attend their duties with diligence. Plots were conceived over desultory meals, hatched further in the bosom of the underground Roman clubs and forgotten about by daybreak the next day. Who would be Caesar after the ragged year of the Four Emperors?
Or were they?
Falco is a gentleman. (Few would know, and even fewer would find out.) After six weeks of republican stubbornness, Falco has to act. The girl is dead.
Pretty Sosi dies in mysterious circumstances, in a spice warehouse. The trail leads to Britannia (where Vespasian first made his name) amd where the Second Augusta (Falco’s old army unit) earned infamy at the hands of a lazy Prefect disinterested in the rout of Boudicca. Londonium – nothing had substantially changed. 80 Roman miles later at Glevum Falco unceremoniously disembarked. Thence, to Mendips and the silver mines.
Helena Justina. Fresh from a divorce from an ugly husband (ugly habits – thrashing strangers). Enclosed, sharp, witty, far too racy driving a cart and horse. Boundaries firmly set.
Roman conquests mean Roman use of natural resources. Roman baths, Roman roads, Roman mines. Of the silver kind. In goes Falco, seeking his quarry in an underground quarry. Cornix is cruel. Falco is abandoned.
Her Ladyship. Irritated. Annoyed. Suave Falco – helpless.
Falco and the Procurator conduct an interrogation; names are extracted and Falco begins to earn his second commission, escort to Her Ladyship, viz, Helena Justina.
Vespasian shared the task of Caesar with his sons. Titus, fresh from Judea. Strong, handsome, charming, concerned. Begs Falco to stay on the case.
A lady inherits a spice warehouse; an heir apparent misplaces an inkwell, and Falco, stout republican he is, says no to Caesar. Regrets fill his heart.
That’s a Roman silver ingot, on the left, there.
A gripping read which graphically takes us into the ancient industry of mining, and mining for Rome at that. Slavery is always slavery, and our courageous Roman informer goes in, deft, keeps his persona, and fulfils his task. We begin to see what some people may call the dogged side of Falco; perhaps, more, it is the integrity, duty, honour, plain decent character of the man. Through Falco and Helena Justina, we begin to see the lapping flames of the battle of good and evil. Helena Justina brings order, decency. Interesting how women are upright bastions of order, structure, decency. Cornix is little more than a detestable pig.
Roman Mine entrance
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