Saturnalia festivities spell family time for Falco. Uh oh.
And to make matters worse, Germania’s most beguiling priestess, and Justinianus’ first love, Veleda has been captured and is being held under house arrest just outside Rome, where the son and heir has just been found murdered, his severed head in an ornamental pond….
Leaving daughters Julia Junilla and Sosia Favonia at home in the indulgent care of their grandparents, Falco and Helena, and a select ensemble of younger family and friends, plus Nux, head off to Greece to investigate the suspicious deaths of two young women a few years apart.
Falco takes on a small job to find a missing gossip columnist for the Daily Gazette, and decides to take the family with him to Ostia, Rome’s port.
As ever, holidaying en famille and combining work and pleasure proves less relaxing than planned, and Falco’s investigations turn out to kidnap, pirates and Uncle Fluvius, ‘the one no one talks about’.
After solving the mystery of the Fishbourne Palace project overrun/overspend and keeping King Togidubnus onside, Falco and family decide to spend a few days in Londinium on their return home to Rome, visiting Helena’s uncle and aunt.
Unfortunately their arrival coincides with the apparent murder of King Togidubnus’ friend, Verovolcus, whose banishment to Gaul Falco engineered at the end of A Body in the Bath House.
Londinium, it seems, is starting to experience the less attractive side effects of Roman life – extortion rackets run by the big boys from Rome.
As Falco and Petro run parallel investigations, the will-they, won’t-they romance between Petro and Maia continues. We meet two ladies who loom large in Falco’s life – Chloris, Falco’s ex aka the notorious rope dancer, and a British orphan called Flavia Albia.