What happens in Bovillae stays in Bovillae...until a prominent politician is found brutally beaten there, mere steps from a brothel.
In late December A.D. 39, Marcus Corvinus (No Cause for Concern, 2012, etc.) is enjoying a getaway at the villa his adopted daughter Marilla shares with her new husband, Cornelius, in the Alban Hills outside Rome. Self-proclaimed city boy Corvinus finds this change of pace during the Winter Festival highly satisfying. But, of course, his contentment is short-lived. Corvinus is summoned to investigate the death of local censor-elect Quintus Caesius in the nearby gated town of Bovillae. Caesius' corpse, its head bashed in, has been found near the rear entrance of the local cathouse. Corvinus finds suspicious behavior both at the victim's home and all over the town. Caesius' wife, Vatinia, is only two months dead, both his brother Lucius and his nephew Aulus have less grief for the departed than motive to kill him, and his chief slave, Carillus, implausibly pleads complete ignorance of any household discord but repeatedly professes his master's intention to free him. These sketchy circumstances are matched by the amorality and venality Corvinus finds around Bovillae. Businessman Lucius Ampudius and antiques dealer Quintus Baebius are carrying on a petty dispute over a valuable figurine that has turned up missing, and there's much gossip about the victim's household. When the brothel owner is killed, Corvinus begins to take this raucous rogue's gallery of suspects more seriously.
Corvinus' wry first-person narrative holds his 15th whodunit together. Wishart adds his usual evocative historical touches, including a detailed map of the gated Bovillae.