"What did he eat last? Whom did he eat, in fact?"
Lumbered with working alongside reptilian Chief Spy Anacrites, Falco has the perfect plan to make money - he will assist Vespasian in the Emperor's 'Great Census' of AD 73. His potential fee could finally allow him to join the middle ranks and be worthy of long-suffering Helena Justina.
Unexpectedly confronted with the murder of a man-eating lion, Falco is distracted from his original task, uncovering a bitter rivalry between the gladiators' trainers. With one star gladiator dead, Falco is forced to investigate and the trail leads from Rome to the blood-soaked sand of the arena in North Africa.