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.
Icelandic crime writer Arnaldur Indriðason introduces us to two new pairs of investigators: Icelandic detective Flóvent and first generation Canadian Thorson who’s serving in the American military police come with a historical setting – we’re in Iceland in World War II when it is under occupation by British and then American forces; in the present, we meet retired Reykjavik detective Kónrad and, occasionally, his former colleague Marta.
The murder of an old man in the present triggers an investigation with connections back to Kónrad’s childhood in Reykjavik’s Shadow District and the discovery of the body of a young woman in the same area in 1944, whose murder was investigated by Flóvent and Thorson.
If you’re missing Erlender, try this! It’s the first in a new series. So far, so good.
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 …