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Venus in Copper (Marcus Didius Falco #3)

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,326 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
Marcus Didius Falco, Imperial Rome's answer to Columbo, is hired by relatives of a wealthy real estate developer, Hortensius, to find his murderer. What Falco uncovers is a hotbed of crime in the unscrupulous business dealings of Hortensius. The third book in the series of amusing, romantic detective thrillers set in ancient Rome.
Mass Market Paperback, 275 pages
Published January 23rd 1993 by Fawcett (first published 1991)
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Best Historical Mystery
108th out of 1,304 books — 3,310 voters
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Best Books About Ancient Rome
39th out of 549 books — 874 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ben Babcock
I swear I’ve read some of these before, but they’re the type of books that are made of the same mould. Marcus Didius Falco is a “private informer” in the first-century Roman empire. Recently back from a stint in Britain on the emperor’s business, Falco finds himself in jail for crossing the emperor’s chief spy. Thanks to his mother and his girlfriend, he gets his freedom—and a new apartment—and immediately sets about acquiring a new case. He has to shadow and investigate a gold-digger, Severina ...more
Matthew Gatheringwater
Sep 07, 2008 Matthew Gatheringwater rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I like these mysteries so much that I've started to ration them for prescriptive reading. (Prescriptive reading? Books read with the intention of changing one's mood, attitude, or perspective, selected on the basis of their being considered likely to induce a desired change. I have all sorts of prescriptive books for all sorts of ailments: books to read when I have a cold, books for depression, for anger, for heart-sickness and inappropriate detachment. And then there are books for seasons, situ ...more
Jamie Collins
Fun little mystery. I like her writing very much. I normally don't care for anachronisms in my historical fiction, but Davis is so subtle that it's completely inoffensive. Like an offhand comment from Falco about the unsuitability of a Gallic slave for work as a chef.
Melissa McShane
I think this volume of the Marcus Didius Falco mysteries was where I really got hooked by the series. It's hard for me to classify: is it a mystery with an historical setting, or historical fiction with a mystery-based plot? Venus in Copper is a good mystery story about a "black widow" who may have killed three husbands and gotten away with it, and is now engaged to marry a fourth...or is she trying to protect him from someone else who wants him dead? There are a lot of suspects, a lot of motive ...more
Simon Mcleish
Nov 08, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog here in May 2001.

Re-reading this early Falco novel, I'm a bit surprised by how frivolous it is. I had the impression that they were becoming less serious as time progressed, but in fact the tone of this one is remarkably similar to that of the later novels.

Falco is employed by the business partners of parvenu Hortensius Novus to gather evidence against his fiancée, who has a history of marrying rich men who die soon after the ceremony, and ot help them buy her off
Oct 13, 2011 Kissmekate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marcus Didius Falco sitzt mal wieder in der Klemme oder vielmehr im Knast. Als ihn seine liebende Mutter freikauft, schwankt er zwischen Peinlichkeit und Freude. Kaum heimgekehrt in seine Bruchbude auf dem Aventin, erreicht ihn sein neuester Auftrag: ein reich gewordener Ex-Sklave namens Hortensius ist im Begriff, eine Frau zu heiraten, deren vorherige Ehemänner - drei an der Zahl - allesamt auf mysteriöse Art und verdächtig schnell ums Leben gekommen sind. Falcos Aufgabe soll es nun sein, zu ve ...more
Elaine Tomasso
Apr 27, 2016 Elaine Tomasso rated it really liked it
It's all change for Falco in his third outing, Venus In Copper. For a start he is in jail talking to a rat, imprisoned without trial by a jealous Anacrites, Vespasian's chief spy (to know why you have to read the preceding novel, Shadows In Bronze). Due to this mishap and unpaid wages when he finally gets out he decides to stop working for the government and stick to the private sector. He also moves house in the hope of getting Helena, his upper class girlfriend, to move in with him. He is not ...more
Jun 02, 2013 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lindsey Davis has redeemed herself. After a sub-par book II, Venus in Copper returns the Marcus Falco series back to form. A new murder mystery with a set cast of characters. More investigation than love story with Helena having a more sideshow type role. Falco's unique sense of humor which along with the attention to ancient history detail make Davis' writing stand out.

This book focuses on property management and the trials and tribulations of the big land-owners inside of Rome.
Mar 14, 2012 Jo rated it really liked it
Who could fail to love Didius Falco? This is the fourth book in which the Roman investigator/spy tackles crime and mystery and the plot skips along happily with stray dogs, feminist parrots, odd officials, grasping landlords, thugs, Senators and snake-dancing women; typical Falco fare.
And his very satisfying romance with Helena Justina warms the heart.
It's a joy to read of Falco's mishaps and adventures, he is a man of integrity, whatever he pretends.
Read this, and feel good about life.
May 07, 2009 Scot rated it really liked it
I've learned you can rely on Lindsey Davis for an entertaining and informative read, and this series never seems to disappoint. This is the third of the Falco historical mystery series; Falco is an "informer" for the Emperor in first century Rome. This one deals with the activities of a "black widow" gold digger, and is particularly instructive on class issues and tensions in that culture, and the options and social status of freedmen who were once slaves.
Mar 20, 2010 Deb rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-books-read
This series just gets better and better. Falco is hired by a family of freed slaves who thinks one of their members is being taken in by a gold digger who has a penchant for murdering her rich husbands. As usual, as Falco delves into his task, he finds much than meets the eye. Less than scrupulous landlords play center stage, and Helena finally makes an important decision regarding her relationship with Falco. I couldn't put this one down!
Jun 02, 2014 Dyana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Severina Zotica is about to marry Hortensius Novus. The problem is she has had three previous husbands who died shortly after marrying her. The women of the Hortensius household hire Marcus Didius Falco, a private informer (investigator in ancient Rome), to investigate Zotica and either pay her off not to marry Novus or frighten her off. Another problem arises when Novus is murdered before the wedding. Falco has just been released from prison after his mother paid a bribe to the jailors, but the ...more
Roger Verstraete
Marcus Didius Falco: An informer; trying to turn an honest denarius in a distinctly inferior job. A Roman detective or investigator, often working for Vespasian.
Helena Justina: The divorced and patrician daughter of a senator - Falco's lover and the girl he hopes to make his wife.
Maia: One of Falco's sisters (the madcap one)
Junia: Another of Falco's sisters (the refined one)
Famia: His brother-in-law, about whom is it best to say nothing (since there is nothing good to say)
Gaius Baebiu
Gayle Noble
I wasn't sure with the first two books but now I am really starting to warm to Marcus Didius Falco. This book was very enjoyable with Falco investigating a possible 'black widow'. His romance with Helena is also back on track and very sweet in parts. Looking forward to the next one.
Janet Saxon
Nov 16, 2014 Janet Saxon rated it really liked it
I like this author. Well written, complex mysteries in the setting of Empirical Rome. Love the protagonist and other characters as well.
Tracey Savage
Oct 15, 2014 Tracey Savage rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this as my first book from Lindsey Davis. I'll be downloading the series for my travels over the next 12 months.
I am totally enamored with this series! A perfect blend of history, mystery, romance, action, and humor.
Rachel Hawes
The one with the professional bride, the dodgy landlord and the copper ring
Deborah Pickstone
Number 3 of a series and I am losing interest already. The characters don't develop and the plots are repetitive. I've ordered the next 2 from the library and will read them but if it doesn't pick up, I won't continue. I had such high hopes after being entertained by the first. Seems to be a bit of a cult series and I am put off by the author's rather self-congratulatory intro to a reprint, which doesn't help.

It may pick up; I am always eager to watch a writer's development. I have a sad suspici
M.G. Mason
Aug 18, 2012 M.G. Mason rated it it was amazing
The third in the “Falco” series and the one that hooked me to this series.

Falco has decided to remove himself from the employment of the Imperial household and return to being an independent investigator despite realising that he will now never earn enough money to work his way up to Equestrain rank (and legally be able to marry Helena Justina). He soon finds himself with a commission investigating a family of freed slaves. The group is concerned that one of their number will be murdered by his
Oct 25, 2011 Nancy rated it it was amazing
I am so glad I continued with this series. Marcus Didius Falco is hired to buy off, or scare off, a woman who has become engaged to a close relative of his new clients. She has been married three times, and widowed three times, and Falco's clients suspect that in each case she's helped things along. Lindsey Davis is a talented story-teller, and the stories she tells are funny and poignant with some of the wittiest dialogue I've read. The scene with the turbot is a comic masterpiece, especially w ...more
Rosanne Lortz
Mar 14, 2011 Rosanne Lortz rated it really liked it
In Venus in Copper, Marcus branches out on his own as a private investigator, taking a hiatus from his palace work for Vespasian. He is hired by two wealthy Roman matrons, former slaves who, along with their husbands, are now extremely wealthy property owners. The ladies are concerned for the safety of their husbands’ colleague, Novus, who is about to enter into marriage with Severina Zotica, a professional bride. Severina has had three husbands before, all of whom died suspiciously leaving her ...more
Shirley Schwartz
Apr 08, 2012 Shirley Schwartz rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this third book in the Falco series. It was as entertaining as the first one - The Silver Pigs. I think Ms. Davis gives her readers a rare view of ancient Rome, and Falco is a treat! The books are funny and there is a good mystery in them. In this one Falco has no shortage of suspects, and he gets in his usual scrapes trying to suss them out. Helena plays more of a role in this book too, and I think she's going to be a real asset to Falco to help solve his crimes. She can get into plac ...more
Jeff Dickison
Jun 03, 2015 Jeff Dickison rated it really liked it
My favorite of this good series. Didius Falco investigates a young lady who has lost 3 husbands in most unattractive ways. Is she intent on getting # 4 also? The attraction between Helena and Falco heats up in this one. Highly recommended to fans of historical (and sometimes histerical) fiction!
May 10, 2012 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-historical
c1991. Poor Old Falco...things just don't go his way sometimes. This book had a really comedic scene of Falco et al cooking a turbot - a present from Titus Caesar - who also decides to pitch up for a taste. Really well written. Great story but the character development, historical anecdotes and the humour really carries the day. Highly recommended. The Sunday Times review succinctly remarked "Another redolent dip into corruption in Vespasian's Rome..original and delightful." Agree 100%. FWFTB: e ...more
Diana Sandberg
Jun 21, 2009 Diana Sandberg rated it liked it
A murder mystery set in ancient Rome, around AD70, I believe. Not dreadful by any means, but not so good as the Brother Cadfael series, which is unfailingly entertaining, although quite formulaic. This one is reasonably entertaining, but somehow misses really evoking the age in which it is supposed to be set. The main character is too much the Philip Marlowe. There were no egregious anachronisms that I detected, though I’m no expert on the period, but the impression I got was of a modern mystery ...more
Claire Webster
Aug 21, 2013 Claire Webster rated it liked it
I'm trying again with Lindsey Davis and have just re-read The Silver Pigs and Venus in Copper. They're OK, but I just can't get to love them. There's something I find indefinably irritating about them -- previously I've thought it was the dialogue (particularly, for some reason, the inclusion of the apostrophising 'Lady'). This time I decided it was the obvious laddish comments the author has Falco make, especially to end a chapter. Or perhaps the knowing jokes -- things along the lines of 'what ...more
Feb 22, 2016 Jeane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy
The only reason I bought this previously unknown book is that it was set in Roman time which interests me and it sounded good when reading the summary.
The start didn't promise much for me when reading about jail and a rat ....
but I really enjoyed reading the story.
It is a fast paced story with the main character Marcus Falco, an investigator. This Marco Falco seems to be a funny guy who wants to do his job well, wants justice and is a good natured person. You just must like him, he reallys eems
Sep 20, 2011 Jodi rated it liked it
Mystery set in ancient Rome--what more could a person want. Actually, never knew I was such a mystery fan until I started searching for books for my commute. Should have realized it though from my childhood reading of Trixie Beldon, the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew.

This story certainly gave a good flavor of the time period and allowed me to visualize the Roman Forum and the layout of the city from my travels there. Corrupt officials, shady land-lords and beautiful daughters of Senators peppered
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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)
  • The Iron Hand of Mars (Marcus Didius Falco, #4)
  • 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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