This is the twelfth novel in the mystery series featuring Marcus Didius Falco, an informer and sleuth in Rome at the time of Vespasian. A series of books that have become hugely popular, so much so that the author is now at the forefront of historical mystery writers. It was probably a stroke of genius on her part to have novels that are extremely well researched and contain all the elements that would be and should be found in the Roman world of circa AD70, but to have a lead character who has the vocabulary of a present day New York cop.
Falco has like many people been experiencing problems with builders in what was to be his new Janiculum home. Glaucus and Cotta (remember them) were supposed to be renovating the bath house. It would seem that Glaucus and Cotta have left some rubbish behind when they left the renovation and it is down to Falco why they left it there.
While on the subject of building and renovations the Emperor Vespasian has more than a few problems with a building project he is financing for the Togidubnus, Chieftain of the Atrebates in that god forsaken place called Britannia. As Falco has served his time in Britannia he seems the logical person to send and sort out the mess. Helena is keen to turn the expedition into a family holiday, so Falco, Helena and the two young children, plus one or two hangers on arrive at the half built palace in Noviomagus.
Falco soon starts to rub the builders up the wrong way by asking too many questions. Bodies start to appear and the family are soon put in danger. Falco begins to realise why he hated this cold, wet and windy island so much.