Beatings by the Emperor Vespasian's flunkies; imprisoning on sundry trumped-up charges; surviving the collapse of his new building; tangling with killers, swindlers, and landlords; crossing swords and hearts with Helena Justina, the senator's daughter--in other words, business as usual for Marcus Didius Falco (Silver Pigs, Shadows in Bronze), sometime informer for the emperor, who's hired by the relatives of freedman/real-estate mogul Hortensius Novus to dig up enough dirt to discredit his oft-widowed fiancÇe, Severina Zotica, before she can marry and bury him. Too late: Hortensius is poisoned at a suspiciously well-attended banquet, and creepy Severina hires Falco to solve his murder. Falco, as always a better adventurer than a detective, goes through all his customary high-jinks, described with all his customary self-infatuated facetiousness, en route to a denouement that implicates half of Imperial Rome in the killing. Anything to add? To quote Falco, ``Zilch.''