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In the blazing July heat of imperial Rome, Flavia Albia inspects a decomposing corpse. It has been discovered in lots to be auctioned by her family business, so she's determined to identify the dead man and learn how he met his gruesome end. The investigation will give her a chance to work with the magistrate, Manlius Faustus, the friend she sadly kws to be the last chaste man in Rome. But he's got other concerns than her anymous corpse. It's election time and with democracy for sale at Domitian's court, tension has come to a head. Faustus is acting as an agent for a 'good husband and father', whose traditional family values are being called into question. Even more disreputable are his rivals, whom Faustus wants Albia to discredit. As Albia's and Faustus' professional and personal partnership deepens they have to accept that, for others, obsession can turn sour, and become a deadly strain that leads, tragically, to murder.
Historical novelist Lindsey Davis is best known for her novels set in Ancient Rome, including the much-loved Marcus Didius Falco series, although she has also written about the English Civil War, including in 2014 A Cruel Fate, a book for the Quick Reads literacy initiative. Her examination of the paranoid reign of the roman emperor Domitian began with Master and God, a standalone novel, leading to her new series about Flavia Albia, set in that dark period. Her books are translated and have been dramatized on BBC Radio 4. Her many awards include the Premio Colosseo (from the city of Rome) and the Crime Writers' Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement. Most recently she was the inaugural winner of the Barcino (Barcelona) International Historical Novel Prize.