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The Iron Hand of Mars: A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery (Marcus Didius Falco #4)

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  3,453 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
When Germanic troops in the service of the Empire begin to rebel, and a Roman general disappears, Emperor Vespasian turns to the one man he can trust: Marcus Didius Falco, a private informer whose rates are low enough that even the stingy Vespasian is willing to pay them.

To Falco, an undercover tour of Germania is an assignment from Hades. On a journey that only a stoic co
ebook, 352 pages
Published June 21st 2011 by Minotaur Books (first published 1992)
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Karen Witzler
Aug 16, 2010 Karen Witzler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I like it as much as ever - this reading was at least the third time through. I always enjoy the Varus and the Lost Legions subplot as well as the Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now journey that Falco and his Roman recruits take into Free Germany. Set in the second year of Vespasian's reign.
May 04, 2008 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of all of the Falco novels, this one turned out to be one of my favorites, probably because it included more military adventures than other Falco books and swordplay.

This tale of intrigue is set in Germania where Falco, Vespasian's agent, is tasked with attempting to derail a rebellion led by the Batavian leader Civilis and win over a mysterious prophetess. Since most of my study of Rome has concentrated on the late Republican period, I was not familiar with this major insurgency that arose duri
Jul 15, 2016 HBalikov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have enjoyed Steven Saylor’s Finder series as much as Davis’ Falco series, but for slightly different reasons. Both are set in the Roman Empire of 2000 years ago (but at slightly different periods). Both show that their authors did a goodly amount of research to bring those times to life. Saylor’s approach is a bit more sober and measured. Davis has a lot of fun with Falco who is “always outnumbered, always outgunned.”

I haven’t found a theme in the other Falco books, but the theme of this book
Mar 20, 2017 Peat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I get why writers like to send their detectives out of their usual habitat; freshens things up, prevents it from getting too repetitive.

Problem is it often involves changing a lot of the dynamics, and sometimes the book dips as a result.

Personally that happened here. Falco traipsing around the Germanic forests with a bunch of legionaries who we never get to know properly isn't as much fun as Falco closing in on a mystery as he pounds around the streets of Rome, dealing with the same old stubborn
Aug 28, 2011 Marcus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Iron Hand of Mars" is probably the best of initial four books in the series about Marcus Didius Falco. Our protagonist is once again sent out of Rome on a very delicate mission, this time at the border between Gaul and Germany. The mission quickly becomes multi-faceted and dangerous in more ways than one for Falco and his somewhat odd companions. As usual, the characters and enviroments are flawless and there is a lot of humor. But at the same time "The Iron Hand of Mars" is a little diffe ...more
Jamie Collins
Not my favorite of the series, but still a decent read. Falco's journey through Gaul and Germania and his mission to find a missing legate seemed a bit dull to me. I continue to enjoy the characters, particularly Helena's brother, who was introduced in this book. Falco is still dead broke and he and Helena Justina are still squabbling like teenagers; after four books I'm ready for them to advance to the next stage.

aPriL does feral sometimes
'The Iron Hand of Mars' is #4 in the Marcus Didius Falco detective series, although he is not entirely a detective in the sense we moderns understand. Falco in a freelance "informer" in 71AD Rome. Several books ago, he began doing odd jobs for the Emperor Vespasian, and he also met a Senator's daughter, Helena Justina, who is WAY out of his class. In Rome, one pays for the privilege of changing rank upwards by literally buying it, like getting a license to drive, apparently. Falco is extremely p ...more
Melissa McShane
I didn't enjoy this one as much as the two previous Falco mysteries. Davis's depiction of the ancient world is superb as always, particularly the details of heading north out of (Roman) civilization and into the wilds of Germania. The mystery, on the other hand, was a little thin, often giving way to the details of Falco's Imperial task, in which he goes from being a detective to being a spy for Vespasian. It's interesting enough, but I felt that Falco's mission--to discover the fate of a Roman ...more
(A lot of soldiers in this but no warfare.)
Poor Falco, sent off to do the emperor's dirty work yet again. He's carting a literal iron hand up into Germania where it is to be presented to the 14th Gemina legion, a legion ready to do violence to Falco for having been a member of the legion which failed to support them in battle. That was a long time ago in another place and Falco would rather not think about it. He knows the 14th will remember the details only too well and will not appreciate his
The books drag a bit. And I'm getting a bit tired of the on again off again relationship with Falco and his lady love. Granted they need a certain amount of cash before they can marry due to class difference, but for the love of the gods, get on with it. The Latin is still giving me trouble, and I look forward to watching Falco getting himself out of the crazy situations the current Emperor puts him in. On to the next!
I am totally enamored with this series! A perfect blend of history, mystery, romance, action, and humor. This addition had more geography and history than some of the others which I thought slowed the pacing somewhat in parts. Still loved it though!
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Carey Combe
Finally, made me buy one of her books!
Rachel Burton
The one with the German Tribes, the brother, the little dog and the Prophetess in the Tower.
Mar 18, 2017 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-fiction
Whilst I enjoy all Falco novels from Lindsey Davis, there are some that stand just a little bit above the rest. 'The Iron Hand of Mars' is one of those entries in the Roman detective series, and truth be told is an improvement on 'Venus in Copper' (the preceding entry). This is due in no small part to the location of most of the book's narrative. Taking Falco out of the capital and sending him on a decidedly dodgy mission in the wilds of Gaul and Germania allows for some colourful scene setting ...more
Debby Kean
Dec 03, 2016 Debby Kean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read it many times and it's great.
Mar 16, 2017 Larry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first time I tried to read this book, I fell off the sled in chapter four. Although he is clever and street smart, Marcus Didius Falco is an idiot when it comes to relationships. I had gotten tired of Falco taking two steps forward and one (or a half-dozen) steps backward in his pursuit of the beautiful Helena Justina. So this time I just skipped the embarrassing chapter, and pieced together what must have happened from references in the narrative going forward, and I was happier for it. Aft ...more
Francis Mulhern
Mar 05, 2017 Francis Mulhern rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
best yet
Very good story which is full of mystery and intrigue yet filled with slices of humour.
Really enjoyed this one
The dynamic relationship between Helena Justina and one M. Didius Falco never seems to fail me everytime, and after reading through each book, I always turn to mush whenever these two show some vulnerability. You'd think after four books, the whole romantic side of the novels would lose all novelty. But somehow Davis always adds something new to the table. Of course, the book itself is not heavily a romantic story (though Falco certainly does things out of a romantic interest), so I'll stop gush ...more
Sep 01, 2014 Dyana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my least favorite of the 1st four books in the series of ancient Roman informer Marcus Didius Falco. Emperor Vespasian has a reluctant Falco traveling to Gaul and Germany on an Imperial mission to do several things: 1) Deliver the Emperor's gift of a new standard (an iron hand) to the 14th Gemina and scout out what is happening to his army over there, 2) Ascertain the fate of the most noble Munius Lupercus who was sent to the German prophetess Veleda as a present, 3) Attempt to curtail t ...more
M.G. Mason
Aug 09, 2011 M.G. Mason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The fourth in the “Falco” series sees the titular character being sent to the barbarian frontier to deliver a new standard to Legio XIV Germania and to write a report on the state of them and their battle-readiness. The memory of the cataclysmic defeat in Teutoberg Forest is still fresh in the memory and Vespasian does not want a repeat of those events. Falco must also investigate claims of corruption by the legate and attempt to discover what happened to the previous legate who disappeared.

On t
May 12, 2011 Shari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Falco hits the road again in this fourth novel, this time for Germania. Unlike the first two novels, where the action split between Rome and rural locales, almost all of "The Iron Hand of Mars" is set in Gaul and Germany. The grit of the frontier backdrops matches Falco's sour attitude toward the journey and his Imperial mission. His girlfriend Helena Justina fortunately joins the more urban portions of the trip, as their character interactions in Davis's subtle prose are the highlight of these ...more
May 16, 2009 Scot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fourth in this enjoyable series you can rely on for adventure, interesting and memorable characters, wit, and cultural history of Rome in the period around 71 A.D. I particularly liked this volume because our hero, Falco the informer, undertakes a mission for the Emperor that necessitates spending a lot of time on the northern frontier in Moguntiacum, which is today the city of Mainz in Germany. From there he travels down the Rhine and into the wilds lands of Germania Libera to the north, headed ...more
Jan 23, 2014 Gwen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
What a slog of a book! This book took me six months of off-and-on reading to finally finish, and the first 200+ pages were a struggle to push through. So much provincial Roman history! So many people with similar-sounding names! So many minor characters to keep track of! So much flipping back to the cast of characters and map at the front of the book! And the HISTORY. I love the stuff, but this was a little too much for me. I couldn't keep each battle, event, rebellion, or whatnot straight in my ...more
Rosanne Lortz
Mar 14, 2011 Rosanne Lortz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In The Iron Hand of Mars, Marcus is once again in Vespasian’s employ. At the instigation of Titus, who is a little too interested in Marcus’ senatorial girlfriend Helena Justina, Marcus is sent on a far off mission to the wilds of Germany. He must discover the fate of a missing legate, stop a priestess from inciting the tribes to war, and put the tribal chieftain under house arrest. Helena’s honorable (and lovable) brother Justinus joins Marcus on his mission and saves Marcus’ bacon when the nat ...more
May 21, 2012 Ruth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-historical
C1992: The cover says it all really. Stoic Marco followed by a fashion conscious barber who Falco is convinced is about to assassinate him. Ms Davis appears to have hit her stride with this instalment of Falco’s life. It is dripping with historical facts and deeds with a tightly woven plot. IMHO – definitely the best of her that I have read so far. I am in total agreement with the Daily Express ie “The tempo is presto, the language pert. Recommended to the normal crew. FWFTB: barbarians, Germani ...more
Sep 15, 2012 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
As I have said, I am on a Marcus Didius Falco role. This one was interesting because it takes place mostly in Roman-controlled Gaul and Germany with a foray (literally) into Free Germany. Much of this story has a solid basis in Roman history and I enjoyed how Davis incorporated the imaginative story with real events and characters. The beginning was less effective (although necessary for those of us not solid on the Roman occupation of that part of Europe). It consisted of 2 key characters swapp ...more
Apr 02, 2010 Deb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-books-read
Falco has reluctantly accepted an imperial mission which takes him deep into the wilds of the Germania Libera. Helena has disappeared, apparently in a fit of pique when Falco misses her birthday. At the same time, Vespasian's son Titus is romantically pursuing her. Helena' s brother Camillus Justinius is introduced in this installment, teaming up to support Falco. I really enjoyed this installment of Falco's adventures even though it was less of a puzzle than usual, and much more of an adventure ...more
Jonathan Palfrey
A good adventure story in which Falco exposes himself reluctantly to the dangers of a mission in Germany, only parts of which have been conquered by the Romans. He benefits from the company of Helena's likeable brother Justinus, who's stationed there, and we see something of Helena herself, but not enough. She goes as far as the civilized parts of Germany, but naturally stays out of the way of real danger.

We learn in passing about the tribes of Germany and about commercial rivalry in the pottery
Penny Shales
Apr 01, 2011 Penny Shales rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lindsay Davis has created one of the most likeable detectives ever in Marcus Didius Falco. She also recreates ancient Rome in a deliciously accessible way - Falco is a humourous detective who careers round the known Roman world collecting strange characters - and dogs - as well as of course solving various gruesome murders. The Iron Hand of Mars takes Falco to the outer reaches of the Empire on the river Rhine. It is a hostile environment inhabited by vicious Germanic tribes as well as as a beau ...more
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Lindsey Davis, historical novelist, was born in Birmingham, England in 1949. Having taken a degree in English literature at Oxford University (Lady Margaret Hall), she became a civil servant. She left the civil service after 13 years, and when a romantic novel she had written was runner up for the 1985 Georgette Heyer Historical Novel Prize, she decided to become a writer, writing at first romanti ...more
More about Lindsey Davis...

Other Books in the Series

Marcus Didius Falco (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco, #1)
  • Shadows in Bronze (Marcus Didius Falco, #2)
  • Venus in Copper (Marcus Didius Falco, #3)
  • Poseidon's Gold (Marcus Didius Falco, #5)
  • Last Act in Palmyra (Marcus Didius Falco, #6)
  • Time to Depart (Marcus Didius Falco, #7)
  • A Dying Light in Corduba (Marcus Didius Falco, #8)
  • Three Hands in the Fountain (Marcus Didius Falco, #9)
  • Two for the Lions (Marcus Didius Falco, #10)
  • One Virgin Too Many (Marcus Didius Falco, #11)

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