Mysterious Press, Sept 2002, 24.95, 304 pp.
Cotta and Gloccus were incompetent workers who installed informer (the ancient Roman equivalent to the modern day private eye) Marcus Didus Falco's new bathhouse. A terrible odor emanating from his new edifice forces Falco to dig up the floor where he finds the remains of a man who was murdered. Cotta and Gloccus are nowhere to be found, but Falco thinks they might be headed for Britain where King Togidubnus, a favorite of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, is having a palace built with imperial funds.
Falco accompanied by his wife, children, and sister travel to the outpost of the Roman Empire to find out why there so many overruns and unexplained deaths in building the palace. Falco's sister Maia wants to escape Rome to elude a deadly spy who has taken to stalking her after she broke off their relationship. After investigating the building site, Falco finds corruption, graft and wholesale stealing but that doesn't explain why somebody murders the manager or why the partner of Maria's stalker's is in the area.
Readers who see the world through the eyes of a Roman living in 79 AD notice just how primitive and barbaric they feel Britain is compared to Rome. The protagonist's difficulties with various family members lighten up a very dark and serious story line. The mystery is a clever who done it with so many viable suspects that readers won't be able to guess who the perpetrator really is.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner