Saying farewell to Falco

Some time ago I made a momentous decision.  I decided not to buy any more of Lindsay Davis’ “Falco” novels.  For those who have not encountered them, they are detective fiction set in the days of Vespasian.

This was quite a decision.  I started buying them in paperback yonks ago.  Then, one day, I was staying in Newcastle at the airport Premier Inn, using it as a base for visits to Hadrian’s Wall.  And I started buying the hard backs.  They were so reliably good, you see, and I can always use something light, cheerful, and happy.  I couldn’t wait for the paperbacks.  I think this is the only series where I ever did this.

Of course I knew that they were anachronistic in many important respects.  But I value my light reading.

After One virgin too many, something happened.  Firstly the bright, cheery, mock-ancient covers were replaced with photographs of dull, grimy, genuinely ancient frescoes.  Ode to a banker, the next volume, was just not that inviting.  But the contents were worse.  Something had happened!  The writing just wasn’t as good.

The series continued to decline in the next couple of volumes.  The Jupiter House was sufficiently bad that I stopped buying hardbacks.  The next few I bought in paperback, and they were really no better.

I reread one of the latest ones the other day.  It was dull.  I wearied of it.  And I made the decision — no more.  In fact I took all the Falco’s after The Jupiter House and conveyed them to the “out” pile, where they will ultimately go to a charity shop.

It’s sad, but what else can one do?  I suspect a change of editor, myself, because the ingredients are not really different.  But it is a shame all the same.

John Maddox Roberts’ “SPQR” series started dreadfully, and is nowhere near as good.  But the volumes have got better, and I have them all.  So … I await the next one of these instead.


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