November, AD 40. When a wealthy consul's wife asks Corvinus to investigate the death of her uncle, killed by a block of falling masonry during renovations on his estate in the Vatican Hills, a sceptical Corvinus is inclined to agree with the general verdict of accidental death. But his investigations reveal clear evidence of foul play, as well as unearthing several skeletons among the closets of this well-to-do but highly dysfunctional family. Who could have wanted Lucius Surdinus dead? His vengeful ex-wife? His ambitious mistress? His disillusioned elder, or his estranged younger, son? Or does the key to the mystery lie in the dead man's political past? But when Corvinus's investigations draw him to the attention of the emperor, a dangerously unpredictable Caligula, his prospects of surviving long enough to solve the mystery look slim.