Aural Noir Review of FALCO: Venus In Copper – a RADIO DRAMA

Aural Noir: Review

BBC Audio - Venus In Copper - based on the novel by Lindsey DavisSFFaudio EssentialFalco: Venus In Copper
Based on the novel by Lindsey Davis; Performed by a full cast
3 CDs or Audible Download – Approx. 3 Hours [RADIO DRAMA]
Publisher: BBC Audio /
Published: July 2006
ISBN: 1846071399
Themes: / Crime / Ancient Rome / Detective / Murder / Noir /
Sample: MP3

“Greetings! Marcus Didius Falco at your service, private informer, investigator to you. If you need references ask the emperor. I’ve just done a big job for him. It went very well, so well his chief spy got jealous and threw me in prison, accused me of stealing some imperial lead. Those ingots are going to haunt me forever. I’d have given them the money if anyone had bothered to ask. Still it wasn’t all bad rotting in jail. I had company, a very friendly rat. But before I had time to get to know him better my mother bailed me out.”

Marcus Didius Falco is the central character and narrator of Venus In Copper (the third in a series of novels by Lindsey Davis). Falco’s narration and dialogue is sprinkled with half-nods and sly-winks to the private detective stories of the 20th century. At least one or two lines out of Falco’s mouth each episode echoes something from Chandler, Chinatown or another quip you’ll half recognize. Falco lives in 70’s AD Rome under the rule of Emperor Vespasian. He works as a ‘private informer’ solving mysteries for the citiy’s elites or the nouveau riche freed slaves. That latter is the case with this mystery, concerning the investigation of a black widow set to marry into a rich family made up of freed slaves. The serpentine plot takes the fore of the drama with Davis and dramatist Mary Cutler (a friend of Davis’s) beeing careful to detail Falco’s personal life just enough to make us care about them all. I mentioned that the program seems to delight in referencing the 20th century private detective story. But it also seems highly interested in showing us actual historical 1st century AD detail. The feel for Rome itself, the interplay between fact actually informs the plot – how wonderful and refreshing for a historical mystery! Te program is both comforting in its familiarity and simultaneously fascinating in its new setting. The characters are likewise familiar and new. Venus In Copper is wonderful.

Anton Lesser, playing Falco, is absolutely extraordinary, carrying the program to the heights of radio drama excellence. Anna Madeley, playing Falco’s aristocratic girlfriend, is also amazing. In fact the entire cast does excellent work. Falco’s world is depicted with a rich soundscape with atmospheric effects and well themed music. The only flaw in the entire production was an artificial sounding talking parrot – but then again I don’t think I’ve ever heard a convincing talking parrot imitation. The program is available in stereo on CD or (occasionally via BBC iplayer) or in monaural via Highly recommended.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Scott D.

Reviews Editor, SFFaudio

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