An ancient Roman sleuth balances a tricky murder investigation with the new challenges of her approaching nuptials.
Days before her wedding to virile Tiberius Manlius Faustus, Flavia Albia brings a picnic lunch to her bridegroom at his popular restaurant, The Garden of Hesperides, currently closed for renovations. Their hearty romantic meal is interrupted when builders discover a cache of human bones. Her job as an informer (the ancient term for a private investigator) makes Albia feel duty-bound to investigate, however halfheartedly. Faustus immediately identifies the remains as those of Rufia, a Hesperides barmaid for the restaurant’s previous owner whose disappearance has prompted much gossip. The locals all know about Rufia but claim she had no enemies or even a boyfriend. The discovery of more body parts amps up the need for a real investigation as well as Albia’s anxiety. Evidence of dismemberment confirms foul play. Albia convinces her fiance to set his workmen the task of digging up the remains, but he, like she, is more focused on their impending marital bliss. When several more bodies are unearthed, Albia looks for similarities among the victims. All of them but Rufia are men whose heads don’t happen to have been removed. Is it possible that this female corpse doesn’t belong to the barmaid at all? Albia races against the clock to catch the killer before her wedding day.
Davis’ fourth case for her heroine (Deadly Election, 2015, etc.) is long on drollery, unpacking its tricky murder puzzle piecemeal.