An exiled Lord Chamberlain unravels layers of deception when he returns to the site of his banishment to rescue a friend.
In response to a brief, imploring letter from his old friend Felix, a general in the Byzantine army, John the Lord Chamberlain ventures from his new home in Greece to Rome, where he once served Emperor Justinian. The danger is palpable, and not just because the Goths are preparing an attack on Rome. Gen. Diogenes, who commands the Roman garrison, gives John an escort named Viteric to help locate the missing Felix even as he dispatches a courier to Constantinople to ask the emperor whether John was permitted to leave Greece or whether Diogenes should execute him. Aware of the danger, John manages to send Viteric away, freeing himself to seek Felix out of the sight of spying eyes. In his seemingly endless quest, John asks countless people whether they’ve seen the “big German with a bushy beard,” but with little positive response. The ebullient Clementia, housekeeper to a senator and Felix’s confidante, echoes his recent disquiet, though she confirms that Felix had not planned to leave the city. Felix isn’t the only citizen who’s disappeared, and virtually every new person John encounters speaks vaguely of the need for justice. When John finally finds Felix, he realizes how deeply his help is needed. With Diogenes in pursuit, can John possibly succeed?
The 12th franchise entry (Murder in Megara, 2015, etc.) places the reader in the middle of the turmoil of sixth-century Rome and into a tense historical mystery.