Saturnalia (Davis novel)

Saturnalia is a 2007 historical mystery crime novel by Lindsey Davis and the 18th book of the Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries series. Set in Ancient Rome, the novel's central character and narrator is Marcus Didius Falco, informer and imperial agent. The title refers to the Saturnalia feast held annually on 17 December, at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn. Over the years, it expanded to a whole week, up to 23 December.

First edition
AuthorLindsey Davis
Cover artistMark Edwards
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesMarcus Didius Falco
GenreHistorical mystery crime novel
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Preceded bySee Delphi and Die 
Followed byAlexandria 

Plot summary

It is the Season of Misrule in Rome, sheer misery for Falco. Uppity slaves give orders to their cringing masters, masters try to hide in their studies, women are goosed, statues wobble, a prince has a broken heart, Helena’s brother will not decide if his heart is broken or not, children are sick and even the dog can’t stand it any more. As the festival meant for healing grudges riotously proceeds, a young man who has everything to live for dies a horrific death while the security of the Empire is compromised by the usual mixture of top brass incompetence, bureaucratic in-fighting and popular indifference. The barbarians are not just at the gates, they are right inside - and that’s just the bombasts in the Praetorian Guard, encouraged by the pernicious Chief Spy.

Doctors are making a killing. Alternative therapists are ecstatic. Members of the Didius family are about to receive some extremely unusual seasonal gifts. But for the non-persons on the fringes of society life is not so jolly, and dark spirits walk abroad (available for hire through the usual agents). Falco has a race against time to find a dangerous missing person, aided and hindered by faces from the past, while running the gauntlet of the best and worst Roman society can offer as Saturnalia entertainment. Unfortunately for him.

This is the one with the giant vegetables.

This novel makes numerous references to the events in Lindsay Davis' earlier novel in the Falco series, The Iron Hand of Mars (1992).

Characters in Saturnalia


  • Helena Justina - Wife of Falco, and daughter of the Senator Decimus Camillus Verus
  • Marcus Didius Falco - Informer and Imperial Agent.

Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science

Release details

  • 2007, UK Hardback, ISBN 978-1-84605-034-3, Century, February
  • 2007, UK Trade Paperback, Century, July
  • 2007, Australian Trade Paperback, Century 1, February
  • 2007, New Zealand Trade Paperback, Century, March
  • 2007, Canadian Trade Paperback, Century 27, March
  • 2007, UK Paperback, Arrow February 2008
  • 2007, UK Audio, BBC Audiobooks
  • 2007, US Hardback, St Martin’s Minotaur, May
  • 2007, US Audio, BBC America Audiobooks, May


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