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.
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 …