With toddler Julia and new baby Sosia Favonia in tow, Falco and Helena travel to Britannia where Falco has been tasked with sorting out a building project over spend and over run – we know the site as Fishbourne Palace. So it’s worth it in the end.
Sister Maia finds herself with them too, as a result of some subterfuge by Helena in cahoots with Petro, both concerned by what spurned admirer Anacrites might be plotting.
And given the Bath House theme, don’t be surprised at who Falco finds loitering in Britannia …
Newly appointed Procurator of the Sacred Poultry (with a responsibility for goslings), Falco becomes entangled with the world of Roman religions and cults, and the Vestal Virgins in particular!
We see a better side of Helena’s brother Aelianus too. After he literally stumbles across the body of one of the Arval Brethren, with his throat slit, Aelianus offers to help out with Falco’s investigations. Not that Falco sees it that way…
Unwillingly in partnership with Anacrites but happily and lucratively working on Vespasian’s tax census, Falco finds himself investigating the murder of an arena lion.
When the trail grows cold, Falco and family – extended to include drunken sot brother in law Famia and truculent teenage nephew Gaius – travel across the inner sea to the northern shores of Africa in search of Helena’s errant younger brother Camillus Justinus and Baetican heiress Claudia Rufina who we last saw eloping, at the end of Three Hands in the Fountain.
Here the plot lines converge as Falco and Co travel around the main towns of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, culminating in a denouement at the End of Harvest Games in Lepcis Magna.
Falco and new partner Petro are on the trail of a serial killer, whose victims start turning up piecemeal in Rome’s water supply. Helena is nursing new baby Julia and helping to keep their enquiries on track and Claudia Rufina, visiting from Beatica, is engaged to Helena’s brother Aelianus.
Anacrites is still lodging with Ma and becomes embroiled in the investigation on behalf of the Water Board.
Meanwhile Falco and Petro find themselves assigned an official patron/supervisor in the form of ex consul Frontinus.