On a cold January evening in 50BC, two strangers enter Rome - one an Egyptian ambassador and the other a eunuch priest. Both are seeking Gordianus the Finder, who has a reputation for solving murders. But the ambassador, a philosopher named Dio, asks for something Gordianus cannot give - help in staying alive. And before the night is out, Dio is brutally assassinated.
Now Gordianus must begin the most dangerous case of his career. Hired to investigate Dio's murder by a beautiful woman with a scandalous reputation, he will follow a trail of intrigue into the highest circles of political power and the city's secret arenas of debauchery. There Gordianus will learn that nothing is as it seems, not the damning evidence he uncovers, nor the suspect he sends to trial, not even the real truth behind Dio's death which also lies shrouded in secrets - though not of the state, but of the heart.
Saylor (Catilina's Riddle) has established a fine reputation with his mystery novels set in ancient Rome and starring Gordianus the Finder, an early PI. In his fourth adventure, in 56 B.C., Gordianus is visited by Dio, his teacher of Greek philosophy 30 years earlier in Alexandria, who is now on an Egyptian delegation to Rome. Dio, whose fellow delegates are being killed, fears being poisoned; so Gordianus offers him an untainted dinner. Poor Dio dies that night anyway, stabbed and poisoned. Gordianus looks into the doings of his late teacher's companion, the eunuch priest Trygonion, who had accompanied Dio that evening. A beautiful, sex-hungry widow accuses Gordianus's neighbor, a young, loudmouthed lawyer, of murdering Dio, and she hires Gordianus to prove her charges. Saylor gives the widow a gloriously handsome, incest-inclined brother and sets his tale simmering with eroticism, adding engrossing historical filler about Roman law, politics and goddess cults. The result is a talky, absorbing brew of Rome's decay. The title refers to luck at dice.