Rome, AD 71. Marcus Didius Falco is desperate to leave the notorious Lautumiae prison-though being bailed out by his mother is a slight indignity. Things go from bad to worse when a group of nouveau riche ex-slaves hire him to outwit a fortune-hunting redhead, whose husbands have a habit of dying accidentally, leaving him up against a female contortionist, her extra-friendly snake, indigestible cakes, and rent racketeers. All the while Falco tries to lure Helena Justina to live with him, a dangerous proposition given the notorious instability of Roman real estate. In a case of murder as complicated as he ever faced, Falco is at his very finest.