An invitation from a friend introduces an Edwardian couple to yet another odd murder.
Lady Emily Hargreaves and her husband, Colin, agent of the British Crown, are no strangers to unusual murders (Uneasy Lies the Crown, 2018, etc.), but they expect no more than a pleasant vacation when their friend Ivy Brandon invites them to visit Pompeii. They rent a villa and get a scholarly tour of the ruins from Ivy’s new friends. Callie Carter is an archaeologist who got her job only because her artist brother, Benjamin, is on hand to chaperone her. While exploring the ruins, they discover that one of the many bodies apparently preserved when Vesuvius erupted is disconcertingly modern. As Emily and Colin investigate the contemporary murder, alternating chapters explore the ancient story of Quinta Flavia Kassandra, a Greek slave and talented poet whose father, a tutor for a wealthy family, buys their freedom in the year 79. Kassandra has fallen under the spell of Titus Livius Silvanus, but he marries Lepida, her former mistress. Although Kassandra thinks he’ll seek to bed her, his actual desire is to have her secretly write poetry he can claim as his own. Back in 1902, the newly dead man is identified as journalist Clarence Walker, who seemed more dutiful than enthusiastic about the story he was writing. The Hargreaves’ lives are turned upside down by the arrival of a young woman named Katharina von Lange, who announces herself as Colin's daughter. Her mother, Kristiana, who died when Katharina was a child, was a fellow agent Colin was in love with before meeting Emily; she'd refused to marry him and never told him about the pregnancy. Kat is a manipulative loose cannon who resents and ignores Emily while trying her own hand at sleuthing and seeking her father’s approval. Questioning the crew at the archaeological site reveals a trove of hidden secrets. Which of them will provide a motive for murder?
A captivating story of Pompeii in which the city's mysterious past proves more engaging than the modern mystery.