"Macbain's debut novel convincingly re-creates everyday life in ancient Rome, weaving real and fictional characters with aplomb."—Kirkus Reviews
When the body of Sextus Verpa, a notorious senatorial informer and libertine, is found stabbed to death in his bedroom, suspicion falls on his household slaves—a potential death sentence for all.
The cruel emperor, Domitian, orders Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus—known to history as Pliny the Younger—to investigate. However, the Ludi Romani (the Roman Games) have just begun, and for the next fifteen days the law courts are in recess. If Pliny can't identify the murderer in that time, Verpa's entire slave household will be burned alive in the arena.
Pliny teams up with Martial, a starving author of bawdy verses and hanger-on to the city's glitterati, to unravel a plot that involves Jewish and Christian "atheists," exotic Egyptian cultists, Rome's own pantheon of gods, and a missing horoscope that forecasts the emperor's death....