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The Iron Hand of Mars

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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 Germany is an assignment from Hades. On a journey that only a stoic cou 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 Germany is an assignment from Hades. On a journey that only a stoic could survive, Falco meets with disarray, torture, and murder. His one hope: in the northern forest lives a powerful Druid priestess who perhaps can be persuaded to cease her anti-Rome activities and work for peace-which Falco is eagerly hoping for as, back in Rome, Titus Caesar is busy trying to make time with Helena Justina, a senator's daughter and Falco's girlfriend.Lindsey Davis' historical mystery Iron Hand of Mars is a "seamless blending of humor, history, and adventure" (Publishers Weekly).


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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 Germany is an assignment from Hades. On a journey that only a stoic cou 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 Germany is an assignment from Hades. On a journey that only a stoic could survive, Falco meets with disarray, torture, and murder. His one hope: in the northern forest lives a powerful Druid priestess who perhaps can be persuaded to cease her anti-Rome activities and work for peace-which Falco is eagerly hoping for as, back in Rome, Titus Caesar is busy trying to make time with Helena Justina, a senator's daughter and Falco's girlfriend.Lindsey Davis' historical mystery Iron Hand of Mars is a "seamless blending of humor, history, and adventure" (Publishers Weekly).

30 review for The Iron Hand of Mars

  1. 4 out of 5

    Clemens Schoonderwoert

    **Should Read as 4.5 Stars!** Read this book in 2012, and its the 4th part of the amazing Marcus Didius Falco series. In this mystery a Roman General disappears in Germania, Emperor Vespasian turns to the one man he can trust and can afford to pay, the lowly informer Marcus Didius Falco. During this undercover investigation Falco will meet many obstacles in the way of disarray, torture and murder. The only helpful person who could be helpful to Falco is a Germanic powerful Druid priestess, if only s **Should Read as 4.5 Stars!** Read this book in 2012, and its the 4th part of the amazing Marcus Didius Falco series. In this mystery a Roman General disappears in Germania, Emperor Vespasian turns to the one man he can trust and can afford to pay, the lowly informer Marcus Didius Falco. During this undercover investigation Falco will meet many obstacles in the way of disarray, torture and murder. The only helpful person who could be helpful to Falco is a Germanic powerful Druid priestess, if only she can be persuaded to be willing to cease her hostilities towards Rome, and help him in this case of murder. Eventually he will be able, after some twists and turns, and after an eventful plot to reveal the culprit(s) of these murderous activities, and when he comes home after having solved this case he will find another troublesome high and mighty person who goes by the name of, Titus Caesar, who's after his girlfriend, Helena Justina, but that are problems that will solve Falco in his own unique way. Very much recommended, although this one is not as great as the first three books, its still a superb addition to this marvellous series, and that's why I like to call this episode: "A Very Exciting Iron Hand"!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Assaph Mehr

    The Iron Hand of Mars is actually the first book I've read of the Falco series. I randomly picked up a battered copy at a used books stall in some weekend market, as the premise of a Roman-era detective was too good to pass on. Nor was I disappointed. It took me a while to get the rest of the books, but I went back and read the series in order. This novel tells of Falco on a secret mission to Germania. Exepct the usual noir-style mystery, tempered with the hazards of travel to a barbarian land. Ad The Iron Hand of Mars is actually the first book I've read of the Falco series. I randomly picked up a battered copy at a used books stall in some weekend market, as the premise of a Roman-era detective was too good to pass on. Nor was I disappointed. It took me a while to get the rest of the books, but I went back and read the series in order. This novel tells of Falco on a secret mission to Germania. Exepct the usual noir-style mystery, tempered with the hazards of travel to a barbarian land. Add some spice with his love interest (whose brother was conveniently stationed there), some unplanned beast hunts, and the unavoidable references to the Empires most notorious betrayal in the Teutoburg forest - and you have a recipe for captivating Romanophiles and hard-boiled detective lovers. Be aware that while it's not necessary to read the books in order, it certainly helps. -- Assaph Mehr, author of Murder In Absentia: A story of Togas, Daggers, and Magic - for lovers of Ancient Rome, Murder Mysteries, and Urban Fantasy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten Rhein

    3.5 stars. The plot was good but lacked the level of action and suspense found in the other books so far.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Karen Witzler

    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. 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    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. 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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    John Frankham

    The best in this series, so far. The key thing in this series is that, alongside the witty, humane and exciting historical whodunnit framework, plus a convincing range of civil, political, and family characters, Lindsey Davis writes well, and educates entertainingly about the nature and events of the Roman Empire in the AD 70s. In this case our hero, Didius Falco, in sent by Vespasian on a mission along the Rhine up to the Rhine delta in Germany, outside the comfortable control of the legions, a The best in this series, so far. The key thing in this series is that, alongside the witty, humane and exciting historical whodunnit framework, plus a convincing range of civil, political, and family characters, Lindsey Davis writes well, and educates entertainingly about the nature and events of the Roman Empire in the AD 70s. In this case our hero, Didius Falco, in sent by Vespasian on a mission along the Rhine up to the Rhine delta in Germany, outside the comfortable control of the legions, and where one of Rome's greatest defeats, of Varius's four legions, had occurred. GR's blurb: Imperial Rome's answer to Columbo stars in his fourth adventure in this series of detective thrillers set in ancient Rome. Falco is sent on an undercover mission to Roman Germany to locate a high-ranking Roman officer, who was sent as a "present" to a sinister tribal prophetess.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    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 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 during the reign of Vespasian. So, I did a little research. Gaius Julius Civilis was the leader of the Batavian rebellion against the Romans in 69 AD. Although his name indicates he was Romanized by Augustus or one of the other Julian emperors, Civilis was twice imprisoned on a charge of rebellion, and narrowly escaped execution. During the tumult that followed the death of the emperor, Nero, Civilis took up arms under the pretense of siding with the Flavian emperor, Vespasian, and induced the inhabitants of his native country to rebel. The Batavians, who had rendered valuable aid under the early emperors, had been well treated by subsequent emperors. They were exempt from tribute, but were obliged to supply a large number of men for the army. This conscription and the oppression of provincial governors, however, ultimately led to revolt. The Batavians were immediately joined by several neighboring German tribes, the most important of whom were the Frisii. The Roman garrisons near the Rhine were driven out, and twenty-four ships captured. Two legions under Mummius Lupercus were defeated at Castra Vetera (near modern Xanten) and surrounded. Eight cohorts of Batavian veterans joined their countrymen, and the troops sent by Vespasian to the relief of Vetera threw in their lot with them as well. The result of these accessions to the forces of Civilis was another uprising in Gaul. There, the Roman commander, Hordeonius Flaccus, was murdered by his troops and the remaining Roman forces were induced by two commanders of the Gallic auxiliaries--Julius Classicus and Julius Tutor--to revolt from Rome and join Civilis in a new independent kingdom of Gaul. The prophetess Veleda predicted the complete success of Civilis and the fall of the Roman Empire. Veleda was a virginal holy woman of the Germanic tribe of the Bructeri. "The ancient Germanic peoples discerned a divinity of prophecy in women and regarded prophetesses as true and living goddesses. In the latter half of the 1st century CE Veleda was regarded as a deity by most of the tribes in central Germany and enjoyed wide influence. She lived in a tower near the Lippe River, a tributary of the Rhine. The inhabitants of the Roman settlement of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (now Cologne) accepted her arbitration in a conflict with the Tencteri, an unfederated tribe of Germany." - Wikipedia Like the pythia of ancient Greece, envoys were not admitted to her presence; an interpreter conveyed their messages to her and reported her pronouncements. So, it is not known whether Veleda just prophesied the victory or actively incited the rebellion. But, ultimately, tribal disputes ended any chance for success and Vespasian was able to put down the rebellion with the arrival of Quintus Potillius Cerealis and a strong force. Civilis, himself, was defeated at Augusta Treverorum (modern Trier) and Vetera, and forced to withdraw to the island of Batavia. It is thought Civilis negotiated an agreement with Cerialis whereby his countrymen obtained certain advantages, and resumed amicable relations with Rome, although Civilis disappears from the historical record at this point, an ominous sign. However, Cerialis, like Julius Caesar, was known for his clementia, so the outcome may not have been dire after all. As for Veleda, she was either captured by Rutillius Gallicus or "offered asylum" in 77 CE. She is thought to have negotiated the acceptance of a pro-Roman king by her tribe, the Bructeri, in 83 or 84 CE. Note: The chief authority for the history of the insurrection is Tacitus, Histories, iv and v, and Josephus, Bellum Judaicum, vii. 4. So, there is quite an opportunity for Falco to strut his stuff on a scale far greater than his usual sleuthing in back alleys. I think that is why I was drawn into this story more than some of his other adventures. Although I knew Falco had once served in the legions, he was far more physical in this tale than the others and his sardonic personality was kept relatively in check because of the heightened danger of his circumstances. I highly recommend it!

  8. 4 out of 5

    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 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 officer who was given as tribute to a Germanic priestess--ended with an anticlimax. Even the turning point Helena and Falco reach in their relationship isn't as intense as it could be. (view spoiler)[Sure, being proposed to by the heir to the throne who is, incidentally, a hottie would be flattering to anyone. But Helena wouldn't be the strong-minded woman she is to choose Titus over Falco, and the only person who believes she will is Falco, who has Issues about how he's ruining her life because he's a slum-dwelling commoner. So it's not like we spend the last third of the book wondering how she's going to choose. What's sweet about the ending is that Helena keeps Falco going for a bit before telling him she wrote her refusal letter the day after he left on his mission. Hahahaha. (hide spoiler)] Overall, still good, if a little plodding.

  9. 4 out of 5

    HBalikov

    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 boo 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 seems to be “lost.” Several people are lost during the course of the plot and the underlying question posed is: “Who cares enough to try to find each of them?” This is a particularly well-crafted tale that weaves Falco with ease through the milestones of history. Vespasian sends him on a mission north, across the Alps, to Germania and we learn all about the Empire's difficulties in dealing with barbarians. There are murders, spies, plots (both political and commercial), longing embraces and reversals of fortune. This is just the stuff to distract from the heat and humidity of the depths of summer.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Peat

    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 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 faces. Its still fun, but I never had that compulsive page turning feeling that I get with the rest of the story.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    I've always enjoyed the Marcus Didius Falco detective stories set in Emperor Vespasian's ancient Rome. The combination of modern detective fiction with author Lindsey Davis's knowledge of ancient customs and manners is winning. This is one of my favorites with Falco being sent to Germany where we encounter the barbarians who have been violating the truce calling for them to stay on their own side of the Rhine river. Plus a murder investigation, natch. I've always enjoyed the Marcus Didius Falco detective stories set in Emperor Vespasian's ancient Rome. The combination of modern detective fiction with author Lindsey Davis's knowledge of ancient customs and manners is winning. This is one of my favorites with Falco being sent to Germany where we encounter the barbarians who have been violating the truce calling for them to stay on their own side of the Rhine river. Plus a murder investigation, natch.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marcus

    "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 "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 different from its predecesors in its tone. It is a little darker and the dangers threatening our heroes are more sinister. Also, the part about resting place of Varrus' lost legions is very haunty and manages to reflect how Romans must have percieved this disaster.All that being said, it's another keeper from Lindsey Davis.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Angel

    Marcus Didius Falco goes into Germany on a task for Emperor Vespasian. His lovely lady and girlfriend follows to find him The son of the Emperor, Titus, is making overtures to her to become his wife, and Falco thinks she would do more good to the Empire to do so. Will he sacrifice love for duty?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Kemp

    A great story. Marcus Didius Falco gets the seamier jobs from the Emperor. He always gets the job down even if it means he finds uncomfortable information about the Emperor’s family.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mrs. Moira McGeough

    After reading several weighty tomes on various parts of history I really enjoyed the light relief of reading another adventure of Falco. This time he was lugging an iron hand around Gaul and Germania on behalf of the emperor Vesparian. Needless to say he had other, more difficult, commissions to carry out too. The events that follow are quite over the top, often humorous and, of course, enable Falco to round off all his commissions and solve several mysteries. Lindsey Davis might not write weigh After reading several weighty tomes on various parts of history I really enjoyed the light relief of reading another adventure of Falco. This time he was lugging an iron hand around Gaul and Germania on behalf of the emperor Vesparian. Needless to say he had other, more difficult, commissions to carry out too. The events that follow are quite over the top, often humorous and, of course, enable Falco to round off all his commissions and solve several mysteries. Lindsey Davis might not write weighty tomes but her research is sound and she spins a good yarn.

  16. 4 out of 5

    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 '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 poor, an ex-soldier and lower working class. He lives in a slum. However, his mother keeps him honest, and he has five married sisters. His brother Festus died as a war hero, which gives his family some social capital. The kind of work he normally does is following married wives or husbands in order to catch them having affairs. But since he met Vespasian on a case, occasionally the Emperor sends him on delicate secret assignments. I do think these books should be read in order, beginning with: . In this story, Vespasian is sending him to the wild northern lands of the Germanic tribes. Disturbing hints that things are not right with the officers or the legions stationed in these far north Roman forts have been filtering out to the ears of Vespasian. Ostensibly, Falco is delivering a ceremonial sculpture of a hand as a token of esteem for the Fourteenth Legion's good behavior on controlling the Bavarians (who switch sides a lot) as well as fighting off the strange wild Germans when required. Falco also has been directed by Vespasian to try to contact a Druid priestess, Vetera, to learn what she had done with an important captured Centurion, Lupercus, taken a decade ago in a battle. And as usual, Falco is not entirely certain who he can trust, since family members, competing businessmen and corrupt officers make his search for answers particularly dangerous. This particular book in the series has a strong military flavor overall. The author, Lindsay Davis, includes a lot of actual ancient Roman political and military history regarding these Germanic battles because Falco's current adventure involves meeting some of the people still living who had participated in these skirmishes and wars. It is a very informative 'mystery', but I thought the military history of Rome is the main scaffold and focus for the plot, with Falco's romance with Helena coming in as a continuing thread in the background. The tragic adventure with the wild tribes eventually enters the stage near the end of the novel, but in my opinion, mystery is not really the point of the book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    (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 (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 poking about in their affairs as the emperor has ordered. The best part of the narrative is following through the German forests, on the wrong side of the Rhine with twenty raw recruits, Helena's brother (now a tribune) and Nero's former barber, who wears pink boots. Now was that barber sent to spy on Didius Falco or does he really just want to see the world? The tension as the reach the site of that old battle where General Varus lost four legions is intense and made that ghastly event more vivid than any account I've read before. I also enjoyed the whole plot surrounding the pottery supply contracts. Davis made it ring so naturally like the contract squabbles we read about in the US. Great chunks of history phrased in most modern language that sounds appropriate to the nature of the characters.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Palfrey

    A good adventure story in which Falco exposes himself reluctantly to the dangers of a seemingly impossible mission in Germany, only parts of which have been conquered by the Romans. He benefits from the company of Helena Justina'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. Falco has to venture into the uncivilized parts, where no Rom A good adventure story in which Falco exposes himself reluctantly to the dangers of a seemingly impossible mission in Germany, only parts of which have been conquered by the Romans. He benefits from the company of Helena Justina'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. Falco has to venture into the uncivilized parts, where no Roman is safe; and at the beginning of winter, too. We learn in passing about the tribes of Germany and about commercial rivalry in the pottery industry. The Iron Hand of Mars is a heavy metal object that Falco is obliged to carry with him to present to the 14th Legion as a gift from the Emperor. It has no particular function in the plot. As usual, Falco has plenty of problems and some suffering to endure, but he survives it all and even accomplishes his impossible mission—because, although things sometimes seem to be going badly for him, on balance he has an implausible amount of good luck. He also has Helena's brother, who turns out to be surprisingly resourceful, and saves his life more than once.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

    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 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 mind, but maybe if you understand the time period, you'd enjoy this more? The plot finally picked up when Falco, Helena's brother, and the band of soldiers trekked off to find the priestess--200 pages in! (And as with the other Lindsey Davis books, perhaps even more so, the "mystery" was convoluted.) The rest of the book was a fun read, even with the obvious ending to the Falco/Helena romance. (I had to go back and check what I rated the other books in the series--I was a little surprised at how much I reportedly enjoyed them, since this book was a flop for me. Oh well--every book series is entitled to a few mistakes.)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    Lindsey Davis has arrayed our favorite couple, Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina, with a marvelous supporting caste, heroes and villains, even a witch. Falco is sent on another seemingly impossible errand for Vespasian to the outposts of the Roman Empire and beyond. Falco has had to miss Helena's birthday dinner (forgive him, he didn't know that was the occasion) but he cannot find her to say good-bye. Luckily, he does encounter her younger brother. I hope we meet him again in a future volu Lindsey Davis has arrayed our favorite couple, Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina, with a marvelous supporting caste, heroes and villains, even a witch. Falco is sent on another seemingly impossible errand for Vespasian to the outposts of the Roman Empire and beyond. Falco has had to miss Helena's birthday dinner (forgive him, he didn't know that was the occasion) but he cannot find her to say good-bye. Luckily, he does encounter her younger brother. I hope we meet him again in a future volume. With mission accomplished, I wonder how Vespasian will reward Falco?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    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! 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!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Y

    This one was too slow for me, plus it takes place mostly outside of Rome (which I'm not crazy about). Not enough Helena and Marcus interaction for me, but I got through it in hopes that the next one will keep up with the flow of the prior books in the series. This was definitely my least favorite of the series. This one was too slow for me, plus it takes place mostly outside of Rome (which I'm not crazy about). Not enough Helena and Marcus interaction for me, but I got through it in hopes that the next one will keep up with the flow of the prior books in the series. This was definitely my least favorite of the series.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kim Power

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This one sagged a bit at times. The exposition of Roman military history tended to overpower the narrative in places. And I found the disappearance and then reappearance of Helena Justina rather detracted from the novel. The relationship between Falco and Helena is usually one of the joys of this series.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    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!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Burton

    The one with the German Tribes, the brother, the little dog and the Prophetess in the Tower.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In Germany, the Roman sleuth learns the legion's legate Gracilis is missing. Barber Xanthus reveals a talent. Stars Anton Lesser. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0071prn In Germany, the Roman sleuth learns the legion's legate Gracilis is missing. Barber Xanthus reveals a talent. Stars Anton Lesser. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0071prn

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carey

    Finally, made me buy one of her books!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    Not my favourite of the series so far. Too much army stuff and it I thought the central mystery was weak. I'm sticking with the Falco series though in the hope that the next one will be back on form. Not my favourite of the series so far. Too much army stuff and it I thought the central mystery was weak. I'm sticking with the Falco series though in the hope that the next one will be back on form.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ruby Bibi

    Another great adventure - comedic at times yet dangerous -In this 4th novel of the Marcus Didius Falco series, which takes place during the reign of Vespasian in Ancient Rome, Falco is being summoned by the emperor, but he’s avoiding the call, as he knows that the emperor wants to send him into Germany, which is extremely hostile territory. Titus, the emperor’s son, is making eyes at Falco’s girlfriend, Helena, the daughter of a prominent Roman Senator, and it’s bothering Falco tremendously. Titu Another great adventure - comedic at times yet dangerous -In this 4th novel of the Marcus Didius Falco series, which takes place during the reign of Vespasian in Ancient Rome, Falco is being summoned by the emperor, but he’s avoiding the call, as he knows that the emperor wants to send him into Germany, which is extremely hostile territory. Titus, the emperor’s son, is making eyes at Falco’s girlfriend, Helena, the daughter of a prominent Roman Senator, and it’s bothering Falco tremendously. Titus invites the Senator as well as Helena to a dinner party to which Falco is excluded and Falco is stricken with jealousy. He leaves that day to take on a case in order to raise some money, even though Helena had asked him not to go. When he returns to his apartment, Helena is gone and he finds that Helena never attended the dinner party and has left Rome to travel abroad. Even her family has no idea where she’s gone. Falco feels that she finally decided to leave him, and, so, he meets up with Vespasian who gives him an almost impossible assignment and one from which he most likely will not be returning from. -We are given a history of the wars between Rome and the northern tribes of Gaul and Germany. It’s complicated, but the author does a very good job of explaining the events. As to Falco’s mission, it has to do with men who were fighting under the Roman banner from those northern areas, who now were part of a rebellion. Also, a head of a legion, a legate, was said to have been captured by the northern tribes and taken as a sacrifice to a legendary priestess of that northern area. Falco was to bring back a report of what happened to the legate, and also bring back news of the man heading the rebellion. There was also a matter of some bribery being conducted by certain Romans which was enriching them at the expense of the emperor. -Falco, forever making comments which reveal the comic side of whatever he’s going through, no matter how dire, now finds himself with a companion, Xanthus, who is a barber ex-slave and is willing to pay Falco to show him adventures in the north. As a warning as to the dangers they will be facing, in the beginning of their travel, they come across two travelers who they realize have been murdered. -Falco comes across Helena’s brother, who is stationed in the north, and, luckily for Falco, is where Helena had also gone. But Falco must continue further north into enemy territory to complete his mission. Fortunately, he is accompanied by Helena’s brother, the young but capable Justinus. Falco and Justinus embark with about 20 inept troops, beyond the areas where Roman garrisons can afford them protection. -Danger is constantly facing them, as they encounter one force against them after another. After experiencing multiple perils, they end up being captured, and face either slavery or death by the hands of none other than the feared priestess. None of Falco’s attempts to make her fear the wrath of the Roman army seems to affect her and Falco’s group is herded into a pen, where they await their deaths. -The author does an amazing job of taking events that occurred in the past, and preparing a story around those events involving Falco and his group. She manages to keep up his sarcasm, while he faces real danger, and ties those events to his relationship with Helena. Though the story is complicated in the beginning, because of the many names and events that we are given as background, once Falco comes across Helena’s brother, we are treated to what turns out to be a very dangerous adventure, where Falco also ties up all the loose ends of his mission.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vicki Kondelik

    The Iron Hand of Mars is the fourth in Lindsey Davis' mystery series featuring the ancient Roman detective Marcus Didius Falco. The emperor Vespasian sends Falco on a mission to Germany. Falco is reluctant to go at first, but the emperor's son Titus has his eye on Falco's girlfriend Helena Justina and wants Falco out of the way, so he is forced to leave. Titus sends a barber named Xanthus, who wants to see the world, as Falco's traveling companion. But there is more to Xanthus than meets the eye The Iron Hand of Mars is the fourth in Lindsey Davis' mystery series featuring the ancient Roman detective Marcus Didius Falco. The emperor Vespasian sends Falco on a mission to Germany. Falco is reluctant to go at first, but the emperor's son Titus has his eye on Falco's girlfriend Helena Justina and wants Falco out of the way, so he is forced to leave. Titus sends a barber named Xanthus, who wants to see the world, as Falco's traveling companion. But there is more to Xanthus than meets the eye, and Falco wonders if he's really an assassin. The situation in Germany is dangerous, since the Batavian forces led by Julius Civilis, formerly in the service of Rome, have revolted. A general who was sent as a hostage to a powerful Druid priestess, Veleda, has gone missing. Falco has to search for the missing general and discover whether Veleda is willing to make peace with Rome. But it is impossible to see Veleda without the permission of her male relatives, who guard her closely. When Falco arrives in Germany, he finds out that another general has gone missing, and he faces hostility from the general's legion, the Fourteenth, because Falco's former legion had failed them in battle. But he finds an ally in Helena's younger brother, Camillus Justinus, who is now a tribune in Germany. Soon Helena joins her brother and Falco there, but Falco has to decide whether he should let Helena marry Titus for the good of Rome. Falco's mission in Germany takes many twists and turns, and the last part of the book is particularly exciting, as Falco gets lost in a dense forest, with several inept recruits as his companions. Will he be able to complete his mission and return safely to Rome? And will his love for Helena win out over his duty to the empire? This book marks a departure in the Falco series, since it takes place in the wilds of Germany instead of the mean streets of Rome. But Falco is his usual sarcastic, wisecracking self, and there is much of the delightful banter between him and Helena. It's more of an adventure story than a mystery, so readers expecting a whodunit might be disappointed. But readers who enjoy action will not be, since there is plenty of it, particularly towards the end of the book. Davis gives fascinating descriptions of ancient Germany, particularly the forests and the area along the Rhine, and readers will learn many details of life in a Roman army camp. I would definitely recommend this book, but probably not as the starting point for readers new to the series. It's best to start with the first book, Silver Pigs.

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