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In the first century A.D., during Domitian's reign, Flavia Albia is ready for a short break from her family. So despite the oppressive July heat, she returns to Rome, leaving them at their place on the coast. Albia, daughter of Marcus Didius Falco, the famed private ex-informer, has taken up her father's former profession; it's time to get back to work. The first order of business, however, regards the corpse that was found in a chest sent as part of a large lot to be sold by the Falco family auction house. As the senior family representative in Rome, Albia must identify the corpse, find out why he was killed, who killed him, and most importantly, how he ended up in the chest.
At the same time, a potential young man Faustus comes looking for help with his friend Sextus. Between the auction business and Roman politics, it's not quite clear who is the more underhanded and duplicitous. Both, however, are tied together by the mysterious body, and if Albia isn't able to solve that mystery, it won't be the only body to drop.