It's 52 B.C.: an evil time for Rome. As the great generals Caesar and Pompey warily circle each other for control of the Empire, Pompey's underling Titus Milo, a senator representing the interests of the so-called Best People, and his rival Publius Clodius, the patrician turned radical populist, duel for power in the city itself. The elections that will decide the issue have already been put off several times because of ill omens and sporadic rioting when Clodius is murdered along the Appian Way, and the evidence of witnesses points to Milo and his followers. As the news plunges leaderless Rome into chaos, both Clodius's widow Fulvia and Pompey, the Great One himself, press Gordianus the Finder (The Venus Throw, 1995, etc.) to quell the public violence by investigating what really happened on the Appian Way. Leaving the city with only his son Eco and a single green bodyguard, Gordianus sets out to interview the witnesses and iron out a few telltale contradictions--and finds himself sinking into a coverup as many-layered as Watergate. But it's only after a climactic trial oration by Milo's defender, Gordianus's unscrupulous former patron Cicero, that the whole truth will come out. As always, Saylor sketches the real-life historical background with a masterly hand. But the mystery itself, despite a stellar supporting cast ranging from Cicero and Pompey to Caesar and Marc Antony, is muddled and profoundly undramatic. Maybe some bones should just be let lie.