Elena asks that you come to the House of Swans at once . . . Compelled by this message, the wealthy, sybaritic Sextus Roscius goes not to his harlot, but to his doom--savagely murdered by unknown assassins. In the unseasonable heat of a spring morning in 80 B.C., Gordianus the Finder is summoned to the house of Cicero, a young advocate staking his reputation on this case. The charge is patricide; the motive, a son's greed. The punishment, rooted deep in Roman tradition, is horrific beyond imagining.
Gordianus's investigation takes him through the city's raucous, pungent streets and deep into urban Umbria, unraveling layers of deceit, twisted passions, and murderous desperation. From pompous, rouged nobles to wily slaves to citizens of seemingly simple virtue, the case becomes a political nightmare. As the defense proceeds toward a devastating confrontation in the Forum, one man's fate may be threaten the very leaders of Rome itself.