Lindsey Davis Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

In the Didius Falco series, Lindsey Davis renders tangible the history and daily life of first century c.e. Rome and its empire but does it in the wisecracking style of twentieth century detective fiction. Falco treads through both the dregs and the gems of Roman society as he solves bizarre murders and other strange puzzles. Davis’s humorous and sympathetic hero wanders the ancient Roman world in pursuit of his cases, from Britain to Syria, from Germany to North Africa.

In 1995 the Crime Writers’ Association gave Davis a Dagger in the Library Award, which is given to the author who has given the most pleasure to library users. In 1999 she received the same association’s first Ellis Peters Historical Dagger (renamed the Ellis Peters Award in 2006) for Two for the Lions (1998). In 2000 Didius Falco was recognized as Best Comic Detective by Sherlock magazine.

Several of the Didius Falco novels have been produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation as drama serials on Radio 4, with Anton Lesser starring as Falco. These serials were adapted for radio by Mary Cutler, Davis’s schoolmate and one of the author’s oldest friends. Falco novels have been published in more than sixteen languages and are widely acclaimed not only by lovers of detective fiction but also by those fond of the ancient Roman world.

In addition to the Didius Falco series, Davis is the author of a number of short stories, mostly detective in genre. Of particular note because of their ancient subject matter are “Investigating the Silvius Boys” (1995), about the death of Romulus, founder of Rome, and “Abstain from Beans” (1996), in which the death of the philosopher Pythagoras is solved by the boxer Milo of Croton. Davis has also written introductions to a number of volumes, including Is Skin Deep, Is Fatal by H. R. F. Keating (1995), Sharpe’s Tiger by Bernard Cornwell (1997), Green for Danger by Christianna Brand (1999), and Life in Ancient Rome by Simon Adams (2005). She has served as chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and was honorary president of the United Kingdom Classical Association in 1997-1998.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Buller, Jeffrey. Historical Novels in the Classroom. Oxford, Ohio: American Classical League, 1989. This study appeared at the same time Davis’s first novel was being published, but it offers useful perspectives on teaching historical novels similar to those in the Didius Falco series. Topics include using novels as sources of historical information, using the students’ own historical knowledge to “correct” a novel, using historical novels as a means of understanding historiography and improving students’ understanding of unpopular characters or events, and using historical novels and ancient history to uncover repeated patterns in human affairs.

Davis, Lindsey. “I’m Supposed to Be Famous for My Smells.” Interview by Hannah Stephenson. The Press and Journal, February 24, 2007, p. 10. Davis discusses why she is not eager to have her books turned into films, based partly on reservations about recent film adaptations of Roman historical novels. She also discusses her transition from civil servant to novelist.

Dubose, Martha Hailey, with Margaret Caldwell Thomas. Women of Mystery: The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists. New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2000. Contains a brief entry on her works that notes her popularity.

Hawking, James E. “Roman History Through a Hundred Novels.” Solander, the Magazine of the Historical Novel Society 1 (1997). Also available on-line at the Historical Novel Society Web site. This survey of historical novels on ancient Rome is organized chronologically and puts Davis’s mysteries in a broad historical context.

Lindzey, Ginny. “The Official Website of Lindsey Davis.” A rich resource of information about Davis. Includes her biography and bibliography, a photograph album, Falco’s biography, a map of the novels, recent news, and various other related topics.

Mench, Fred. “Historical Novels in the Classroom.” Classical World 87 (1993): 49-54. This survey of Roman historical fiction, intended as a pedagogical reference for Latin teachers, contains a brief introduction to the first three Didius Falco novels.