The third in the “Falco” series and the one that hooked me to this series.
Falco has decided to remove himself from the employment of the Imperial household and return to being an independent investigator despite realising that he will now never earn enough money to work his way up to Equestrain rank (and legally be able to marry Helena Justina). He soon finds himself with a commission investigating a family of freed slaves. The group is concerned that one of their number will be murdered by his fiancé and have asked Falco to uncover the plot and prevent it from happening.
The events of Shadows in Bronze come back to haunt Falco as he is arrested for the theft of a good weight of imperial lead… he is ordered to pay the Emperor the value of the lead and then freed. He agrees but on condition that the imperial house settles its accounts with Falco. Despite his desire to remain distant from the Flavians, the family are not quite ready to let go of Falco.
Davis is playing to her strengths here; she is a writer that prides herself of imparting knowledge on the reader and in this novel she goes into the fine details of the legal complexities of being a freed slave, their rights and responsibilities and how they were able to gain a lot of power, influence and material wealth. This is a fascinating insight into an mostly not investigated by people who write about Rome.
This novel is significantly more intriguing than the prior two. The plot of how the freed slave was killed is ingenious and will keep you guessing until the final few pages.