"This is another masterpiece from the Davis Roman stable."
Flavia Alba has just returned to Rome after spending some time with her parents recuperating from a nasty illness. It is not the best time of year to return, as it is July and seasonably hot and steamy. Instead of taking things easy she dives into investigating the death of a decomposing body found deteriorating in one of the lots for sale in her family auction business. In doing this she comes into contact with Manlius Faustus, Aedile and good friend who helped her in her illness. He is busy supporting a candidate for office in the court of Domitian. This means boosting the reputation of his friend and discrediting all other candidates. To this end he asks Flavia to do some investigating of backgrounds.
Unfortunately it is not only the rival candidates who have shady secrets, but Faustus' friend is also not the solid family man he claims to be. The two strands develop together and even interlock in places. This means that the friendship between Flavia and Faustus is strengthened as they rely on each other to progress the investigations.