In the long, hot Roman summer of AD74, Marcus Didius Falco, private informer and spare-time poet, gives a reading for his family and friends. Things get out of hand as usual.
The event is taken over by Aurelius Chrysippus, a wealthy Greek banker and patron to a group of struggling writers, who offers to publish Falco's work - a golden opportunity that rapidly palls. A visit to the Chrysippus scriptorium implicates him in a gruesome literary murder so when Petronius Longus, the over-worked vigiles enquiry chief, commissions him to investigate, Falco is forced to accept.
Lindsey Davis' twelfth Falco novel wittily explores Roman publishing and banking, taking us from the jealousies of authorship and the mire of patronage, to the darker financial world, where default can have fatal consequences . . .