Narrator

Simon Prebble

Simon Prebble
  • It’s AD 76 during the reign of Vespasian, and Marcus Didius Falco has achieved much in his life. He has joined the equestrian rank, allowing him to marry Helena Justina, the woman he has been keeping time with for the past few years. But that doesn’t mean all is quiet for Falco, Helena, and their two young daughters.

    By trade he is an informer, a man who looks into sticky situations, and he has been hired to pry his errant brother-in-law away from a murder investigation, which means Falco himself must take it on. To investigate the suspicious goings-on and the shady dealings of a fly-by-night travel agency connected to the case, Falco and his wife, Helena, travel to Olympia in Greece under the guise of being tourists interested in the classic sites. With two people already missing from the packaged tour, things only get stickier when two more—including Falco’s brother-in-law—disappear in what is Falco’s most complex and dangerous case yet.

  • Ancient Rome’s organized crime syndicates have never been more dangerous or more cunning than in this latest adventure featuring first-century sleuth Marcus Didius Falco.

    In the Italian town of Ostia outside Rome, Falco appears to be enjoying a relaxing holiday. But when Helena arrives carrying a batch of past issues of the Daily Gazette with the intention of catching up on the latest scandal, Falco is forced to admit his real reason for being there. “Infamia,” the pen name of the gossip columnist for the Daily Gazette, has gone missing, and his fellow scribes have employed Falco to bring him back from his drunken truancy.

    Before long, Falco’s inquiries lead him into the world of piracy and the discovery of criminal traditions long believed dead. Is this the path toward finding Infamia? Why would pirates have kidnapped him? And if they have, will he be found alive?

  • This novel in the acclaimed Marcus Didius Falco series finds the first-century detective confronting Roman legal forces that may just destroy him—and his family.

    Fresh from a trip to far-flung Londinium in Britain, Falco needs to reestablish his presence in Rome. A minor role in the trial of a senator entangles him in the machinations of two powerful lawyers. The senator is convicted but then dies, apparently by suicide. It may have been a legal move to protect his heirs; Falco is hired to prove it was murder.

    As he shows off his talents in the role of advocate, Falco exposes himself to a tangle of upper-class secrets and powerful elements in Rome’s legal hierarchy that may have unintended—if not fatal—consequences.

  • Marcus Didius Falco is about to get involved in a nasty noir crime, involving gangsters, gladiators, and romance.

    For Falco, a relaxed visit to his wife Helena’s relatives in Britain suddenly turns serious. He and his family are staying in London when Falco is summoned to the scene of a murder. The victim, Verovolcus, was a renegade with ties to Roman crime magnates operating in London, but he was also close to King Togidubnus. So when he is discovered dead, stuffed headfirst down a well, a tricky diplomatic situation develops that Falco must defuse.

    His investigation leads him into the seedy underbelly of London. There is a newly built amphitheater in town, one with female gladiators, but Falco soon realizes that the initially troublesome gladiators—including one from his own bachelor past—may just give him the edge he needs to solve Verovolcus’ murder as the gangsters are pursued back to the Italian town of Ostia for a final showdown.

  • The thirteenth novel featuring sleuth Marcus Didius Falco explores the fervor of home improvement that’s sweeping the Roman Empire and Falco’s own household, specifically the bathhouse—where a body turns up.

    Some things never change. With his new villa, Falco also gets a timeless headache: building contractors. After the departure of two shady plasterers, a rank odor in the bathhouse soon leads to the discovery of a corpse under the mosaic floor. Should Falco follow the culprits to remote Britannica? Despite the British weather (damp), the inhabitants (barbarians), and the wine (second-rate), Falco takes his whole family and goes. In veritas, Falco has another, secret reason for this exodus—his sister Maia has rejected the affection of a powerful Roman official, who vows brutal revenge. Now to protect those he loves, Falco must outrun an imperial enemy with a very long—and very deadly—reach.

  • Lindsey Davis is the internationally bestselling author who “makes Rome live” (Washington Post Book World). Funny, astute, and hard-boiled, her series detective, Marcus Didius Falco, now ventures into a new arena, the publishing world of AD 74, to prove that ars longa, vita brevis—and murder is timeless.

    Can a tough detective possess the soul of a poet? After a public reading brings him rousing applause, Falco receives an offer to have his work published. But his ego takes a beating when the banker Chrysippus demands payment for putting the verse on papyrus. Hell hath no fury like an author scorned, and when Chrysippus turns up murdered—in the library, no less—it’s poetic justice. Appointed the official investigator, Falco’s soon up to his stylus in outraged writers and shifty bankers. Now it’s time to employ his real talents: deducing the killer from an assembly of suspects.

    This classic whodunit is Lindsey Davis’ most satisfying mystery yet.

  • International bestselling author Lindsey Davis has done in the mystery genre what Caesar did in Gaul: came, saw, and conquered! Her innovative series put hard-boiled detective Marcus Didius Falco, “the Sam Spade of ancient Rome” (Publishers Weekly), on the mean streets of the Eternal City. Now Davis returns to AD 74 with a riveting investigation into a missing child.

    Men are fools for love. And that includes Marcus Didius Falco. To please his beloved, the tough shamus has become Procurer of the Sacred Poultry (i.e., babysitter of the temple geese). It’s steady work and good pay, but Falco is soon restless. So when a beautiful child, chosen to enter the secret order of Vestal Virgins, disappears, he grabs the case. He quickly discovers that greed and religious fervor are only a thread away from madness. And a little girl’s life may be cut short, not by Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, but by a sinister human hand—unless Falco finds her in time.

  • This tenth novel featuring Marcus Didius Falco puts the tough private eye in the lions’ den to investigate an extraordinary case of murder.

    Nothing’s certain except death and taxes. Catching tax evaders for the Emperor Vespasian looks like a plum position for Marcus Didius Falco, who has teamed up with his old boss, Anacrites, the crotchety chief spy of Rome. Soon, however, Falco is bogged down in bureaucracy, stuck at his stylus, and longing for a good murder to investigate.

    He gets one when someone kills the lion Leonidas, the Empire’s official executioner. Feared by plebeians and citizens alike, Leonidas administered justice with a swift, sure blow. Then he ate the offender. Now this king of beasts lies stabbed to death in his cage.

    Sniffing around for clues, Falco is soon led into the rowdy, decadent world of gladiators and bestiarii, fighters who specialize in contests against animals. Falco finds that it’s dark and dangerous in the tunnels under the arena—and even blacker in the desperate souls of those who must kill or be killed each time the games begin. Yet no one has a motive for slaughtering a lion after hours.

    The unexpected slaying of the most glamorous gladiator in the city is another matter.

    Now Falco has a high-profile crime to handle—and a domestic crisis brewing. His lover, the patrician Helena, reports that her disgraced brother needs help in Tripoli. Since Africa may well be the missing link between the murders of man and beast, Falco is quickly en route to those far shores … and heading toward a dangerous rendezvous with the raging lions that reside in the human heart, and one particular person who stalks his fellow man.

  • In this eighth mystery featuring hard-boiled Roman PI Marcus Didius Falco, Davis creates a chiaroscuro world of evil plots and dark humor, as olive oil whets a villain’s appetite for power and his taste for murder.

    Surprisingly, nobody is poisoned at the Society of Olive Oil Producers banquet—the attempted murder of Rome’s chief spy occurs immediately afterward. Suspicion falls, quick as the Italian night, on the dinner’s sinuous dancer, a lady who has already left for Corduba, Spain. Naturally, Marcus Didius Falco, the Philip Marlowe of Roman detectives, is dispatched to follow her. But he has pledged to stay with Helena, his pregnant, patrician wife, until she gives birth. Caught between Scylla and Charybdis, Falco makes what may be a fatal mistake: he brings Helena with him to a terra incognita of olives and intrigue, where a dies irae and a remorseless killer wait.

  • Balbinus Pius, the most notorious gangster in Emperor Vespasian’s Rome, has been convicted of a capital crime at last. A quirk of Roman law, however, allows citizens condemned to death “time to depart” and find exile outside the empire. Now, as every hoodlum in Rome scrambles to take over Balbinus’ operations, private eye Marcus Didius Falco has to deal with an unprecedented wave of crime—and the sneaking suspicion that Balbinus’ exile may not really be so permanent after all.

  • Last Act in Palmyra is the sixth book in the bestselling Falco series by Lindsey Davis.

    The spirit of adventure calls Marcus Didius Falco on a new spying mission for Emperor Vespasian to the untamed East. He picks up extra fees from his old friend Thalia the snake dancer as he searches for Sophrona, her lost water organist. With the chief spy Anacrites paying his fare, Falco knows anything can go wrong.

    A dangerous brush with the brother, the sinister ruler of Nabataean Petra, sends Falco and his girlfriend Helena on a hasty camel ride to Syria. They join a traveling theater group, which keeps losing members in non-accidental drownings. The bad acting and poor audiences are almost as bad as the desert and its scorpions—then as the killer hovers, Falco tries to write a play.

  • After six months in wild Germania, imperial gumshoe Marcus Didius Falco is back in Rome sweet Rome—but his apartment has been ransacked. And although he desperately needs 400,000 sesterces in order to marry his aristocratic love, Helena, his only client is his mother, who insists that he find out whether the scandalous claims against his dead brother, Festus, are true.

    Then the chief tarnisher of Festus’ good name is murdered, and Marcus becomes the prime suspect. Someone is definitely fiddling with the scales of justice. The more Marcus hunts for the thread that will lead him out of this doom-laden labyrinth of misery and mystery, the less his life is worth—except, as seems likely, as a meal for the emperor’s hungry lions.

  • 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.

  • Rome, AD 71. Marcus Didius Falco is desperate to leave the notorious Lautumiae prison—though being bailed out by his mother is a slight indignity.

    Things go from bad to worse when a group of nouveau riche ex-slaves hire him to outwit a fortune-hunting redhead, whose husbands have a habit of dying accidentally, leaving him up against a female contortionist, her extra-friendly snake, indigestible cakes, and rent racketeers. All the while Falco tries to lure Helena Justina to live with him, a dangerous proposition given the notorious instability of Roman real estate. In a case of murder as complicated as he ever faced, Falco is at his very finest.

  • It’s the first century AD, and Marcus Didius Falco, ancient Rome’s favorite son and sometimes palace spy, has just been dealt a lousy blow from the gods: the beautiful, high-born Helena Justina has left him in the dust. So when the Emperor Vespasian calls upon him to investigate an act of treason, Falco is more than ready for a distraction. Disguised as an idle vacationer in the company of his best friend Petronius, Falco travels from the Isle of Capreae to Neapolis and all the way to the great city of Pompeii … where a whole new series of Herculean events—involving yet another conspiracy and a fateful meeting with his beloved Helena—is about to erupt.

    Lindsey Davis’ Shadows in Bronze is historical mystery at its best.

  • One of the world’s greatest novelists, Leo Tolstoy was also the author of a number of superb short stories, one of his best-known being “The Kreutzer Sonata.” This macabre story involves the murder of a wife by her husband. It is a penetrating study of jealousy as well as a piercing complaint about the way in which society educates men and women in matters of sex—a serious condemnation of the mores and attitudes of the wealthy, educated class.

  • One of the most revered works in English literature, Great Expectations traces the coming-of-age of a young orphan, Pip, from a boy of shallow aspirations into a man of maturity. From the chilling opening confrontation with an escaped convict to the grand but eerily disheveled estate of bitter old Miss Havisham, all is not what it seems in Dickens’ dark tale of false illusions and thwarted desire.

    Raised by a humble blacksmith, Pip is recruited by the wealthy Miss Havisham to be a companion to her ward, the cold but beautiful Estella. There, Pip learns to despise his rough origins as Estella torments him about his low prospects. When Pip is informed that an unknown benefactor expects to make him his heir, he sets off to London to realize his “great expectations.” But true gentleman stature, he will find, is a matter of character, not fortune.

  • Hailed as one of the world’s masterpieces of psychological realism, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a worldly careerist, a high-court judge who has never given the inevitability of his death so much as a passing thought. But one day death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise he is brought face to face with his own mortality. How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth?

    The first part of the story portrays Ivan Ilyich’s colleagues and family after he has died as they discuss the effect of his death on their careers and fortunes. In the second part, Tolstoy reveals the life of the man whose death seems so trivial. The perfect bureaucrat, Ilyich treasured his orderly domestic and office routine. Diagnosed with an incurable illness, he at first denies the truth but is influenced by the simple acceptance of his servant boy, and he comes to embrace the boy’s belief that death is natural and not shameful. He comforts himself with happy memories of childhood and gradually realizes that he has ignored all his inner yearnings as he tried to do what was expected of him.

    Will Ilyich be able to come to terms with himself before his life ebbs away?

    This short novel was the artistic culmination of a profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy’s own life, a nine-year period following the publication of Anna Karenina during which he wrote not a word of fiction. A thoroughly absorbing glimpse into the abyss of death, it is also a strong testament to the possibility of finding spiritual salvation.

  • Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities is a sprawling tale of London and revolutionary Paris with a complex plot portraying the results of terror and treason, love and supreme sacrifice.

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”—opening line of A Tale of Two Cities

    It was the time of the French Revolution, a time of great change and great danger. It was a time when injustice was met by a lust for vengeance, and rarely was a distinction made between the innocent and the guilty. Against this tumultuous historical backdrop, Dickens’ dramatic story of adventure and courage unfolds.

    Unjustly imprisoned for eighteen years in the Bastille, Dr. Alexandre Manette is reunited with his daughter, the gentle Lucie Manette, and safely transported from France to England. It would seem that they could now take up the threads of their lives in peace. As fate would have it, however, the two are summoned to the Old Bailey to testify against a young Frenchman, Charles Darnay, falsely accused of treason. Strangely enough, Darnay bears an uncanny resemblance to another man in the courtroom: Sydney Carton, a dissolute barrister. It is a coincidence that saves Darnay from certain doom more than once, as the two men’s fates become intertwined with that of the Revolution.

    And there is Madame Defarge, a female revolutionary who has an implacable grudge against the aristocratic Evrémonde dynasty and who knits as she watches the beheadings.

    The storming of the Bastille, the death carts with their doomed human cargo, the swift drop of the blade of La Guillotine—this is the French Revolution that Charles Dickens vividly captures. Brilliantly plotted, the novel is rich in drama, romance, and heroics that culminate in a daring prison escape in the shadow of the guillotine.

  • In his eleventh novel, Tim Powers takes his unique brand of speculative fiction into uncharted territory, instilling the old-fashioned espionage novel with a healthy dose of the supernatural.

    As a young double agent infiltrating the Soviet spy network in Nazi-occupied Paris, Andrew Hale finds himself caught up in a secret, even more ruthless war. Two decades later, a coded message draws Professor Andrew Hale back into Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Elements from his past are gathering in Beirut, including ex-British counterespionage chief and Soviet mole Kim Philby, and a beautiful former Spanish Civil War soldier-turned-intelligence operative, Elena Teresa Ceniza-Bendiga. Soon Hale will be forced to again confront the nightmare that has haunted his adult life: a lethal unfinished operation code-named “Declare.” From the corridors of Whitehall to the Arabian Desert, from post-war Berlin to the streets of Cold War Moscow, Hale’s desperate quest draws him into international politics and gritty espionage tradecraft—and inexorably drives Hale, Ceniza-Bendiga, and Philby to a deadly confrontation on the high glaciers of Mount Ararat, in the very shadow of the fabulous and perilous biblical Ark.

  • Art imitates life in this brilliant psychological study of a compulsive gambler, modeled on Dostoevsky's own tendencies. Like so many characters in Dostoevsky's novels, Alexei, a young tutor working in the household of an imperious Russian general, is trying to break through the wall of the established order and the human condition itself, but instead he is drawn into the vortex of the roulette wheel. His intense addiction is accentuated by his affair with the general's cruel, seductive niece.

    With unforgettable characterizations, this novel explores the emotional roller coaster, changing fortunes, tangled love affairs, and complicated lives of the fashionable German gambling set. It is also a stunning psychological portrait.

  • When a twenty-four-year-old writer named Charles Dickens was asked to write a serialized story about English country life, no one anticipated that he was about to become one of the most famous authors of all time. The Pickwick Papers, as it came to be called, enchanted readers with its lively humor and delightfully drawn characters. The members of the Pickwick Club, presided over by the kindly old Mr. Samuel Pickwick, Esquire, agree to make a series of separate journeys into the English countryside and report back to the other club members on their adventures and observations, resulting in an abundance of entertaining anecdotes. When The Pickwick Papers was finally released as a complete novel, it became the first real publishing phenomenon, inspiring bootleg copies, theatrical performances, and merchandise based on the popular characters.

  • Geologist Otto Lidenbrock is perusing an ancient Icelandic manuscript when he discovers a mysterious encrypted note. The message reveals the account of a sixteenth-century explorer who claims to have found a passageway to the center of the earth.

    In his quest to penetrate the planet’s primordial secrets, the impetuous professor, together with his quaking nephew, Axel, and their devoted guide, Hans, sets off immediately for Iceland. Descending through the belly of a volcano into the bowels of the earth, they discover an astonishing subterranean world of prehistoric proportions.

    A classic of science fiction that helped give birth to the genre, this imaginative speculation on the earth’s nature is both a rousing adventure story and an apt portrait of the psychology of the questing scientist.

  • “Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding,” says Scrooge. Mean old Scrooge despises Christmas, until Christmas Eve, when a haunted voice from the past changes his life––overnight!

    Many know the story, but few have experienced the marvel of the book. If you are one who has never read this family classic, this is the time to do so. Listen to our unabridged recording and make this a truly Charles Dickens Christmas. And, “God bless us, everyone!”

  • One-time police detective Peter Diamond loses his job as a security guard when he fails to spot a small Japanese child hiding in the furniture department of Harrods.

    Weeks later, she is still unclaimed. Diamond is unable to forget the frightened eyes of the silent little girl and takes on the challenge of uncovering her identity.

    Now Diamond is back in the sleuthing business, following a trail that leads from London to New York to Tokyo and to a shocking climax that may shatter his heart or cost him his life.

  • Blackstone Publishing presents a new recording of this immensely popular book.

    One of the most celebrated classics of the twentieth century, Orwell’s cautionary tale of a man trapped under the gaze of an authoritarian state feels more relevant now than ever before.

    George Orwell depicts a gray, totalitarian world dominated by Big Brother and its vast network of agents, including the Thought Police, a world in which news is manufactured according to the authorities’ will and people live tepid lives by rote.

    Winston Smith, the hero with no heroic qualities, longs only for truth and decency. But living in a social system in which privacy does not exist and where those with unorthodox ideas are brainwashed or put to death, he knows there is no hope for him. He knows even as he continues to pursue his forbidden love affair that eventually he will come to destruction.

    The year 1984 has come and gone, yet George Orwell’s nightmare vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is still the great modern classic of negative Utopia. It is a prophetic and haunting tale that exposes the worst crimes imaginable: the destruction of freedom and truth.

  • Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond is the last detective: a genuine gumshoe, committed to door stopping and deduction rather than fancy computer gadgetry.

    So when the naked body of a woman is found floating in the weeds in a lake near Bath with no one willing to identify her, no marks and no murder weapon, his sleuthing abilities are tested to the limit. Struggling with a jigsaw puzzle of truant choirboys, teddy bears, a black Mercedes, and Jane Austen memorabilia, Diamond persists, even after the powers-that-be have decided there's enough evidence to make a conviction.

  • Widowed van driver Bob Naylor is prodded into joining the Chichester Writers' Circle by his teenage daughter. Bob writes limericks and jingles, and fears he will be out of his class among the literati. But the members of the circle come from all walks of life and practice many forms of writing, from fantasy to household hints. There seems to be nothing about any of them to incite a serial killer. However, there is an arsonist in their midst, burning his victims to death, and Bob becomes a suspect. To clear himself, he must cooperate with formidable Detective Chief Inspector Henrietta Mallin.

  • A humorist praised by humorists, P. G. Wodehouse here introduces two of his most beloved characters.

    My Man Jeeves, first published in 1919, introduced the world to affable, indolent Bertie Wooster and his precise, capable valet, Jeeves. Some of the finest examples of humorous writing found in English literature are woven around the relationship between these two men of very different classes and temperaments. Where Bertie is impetuous and feeble, Jeeves is coolheaded and poised.

    This collection, the first book of Jeeves and Wooster stories, contains eight stories, including “Leave It to Jeeves,” “Helping Freddie,” “Rallying round Old George,” “Doing Clarence a Bit of Good,” “Absent Treatment,” and “Jeeves and the Hard-Boiled Egg.”