A suspicious death that leads to a murder sends Flavia Albia down a twisted path to expose corruption, betrayal, and gang activity bubbling under the calm exterior of one the best areas of Rome.
First-century Rome is not the quiet, orderly city that it pretends to be. and in this environment a very clever private informer can thrive. Flavia Albia, daughter of Marcus Didius Falco, is a chip off the old block. She has taken over his father’s old profession, and, like him, she occasionally lets her love of a good puzzle get in the way of her common sense. Such is the case when one such puzzle is brought to her by the very hostile ex-wife of Albia’s new husband.
It seems that over on the Quirinal Hill, a naïve young girl, one Clodia Volumnia, has died, and there’s a suggestion that she was poisoned by a love potion. The local witch, Pandora, would have been the one to supply such a potion. Looking into the matter, Albia soon learns that Pandora carries on a trade in herbal beauty products while keeping hidden her much more dangerous connections.
Albia soon discovers the young girl was a handful, and her so-called friends were not as friendly as they should have been. The supposedly sweet air of the Quirinal hides the smells of loose morality, casual betrayal, and even gangland conflict. When a friend of her own is murdered, things become serious, and Albia is determined to expose as much of this local sickness as she can—beginning with the truth about the death of little Clodia.