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In 49 B.C., a bloody civil war between the forces loyal to Pompey and Julius Caesar has engulfed the Roman world and no one is allowed to be neutral. With Rome itself in turmoil, Gordianus the Finder receives an anonymous message informing him of the death of his son Meto, who lately has been acting as a double agent for Caesar. In search of the truth about Meto's fate, Gordianus journeys to the beseiged seaport of Massilia (modern-day Marseilles) which has sided with Pompey and is now stubbornly holding out against Caesar's troups camped just outside it's gates and harbor.
Using his wits, Gordianus discovers a way past the seige troops and into Massilia. But once there he finds himself in a city where famine and slaughter threaten the populace, and intrigue and recriminations has taken over a city that cannot hope to stand out much longer against the troops outside it's walls. His only friend is Hieronymus, the doomed scapegoat chosen by the priests of Artemis to bear the sins of the population and save them from annihilation. When Gordianus witnesses the fall of a young woman from a precipice called Sacrifice Rock, he becomes entangled in finding out what exactly happened - did she fall or was she pushed? -- and where, in all of this, is the truth about his missing son.
In Saylor's latest and stellar historical (after Rubicon), the Roman world is still embroiled in civil war between rival generals Pompey and Julius Caesar. Caught in the morass of conflicting loyalties, Gordianus the Finder travels to the independent city-state of Massilia (present-day Marseilles) to investigate a rumor that his son, Meto, has been killed there. Gordianus finds Massilia under siege, but thanks to an odd stroke of luck that brings disaster to the besieging army, he's able to slip into the city. There he meets Hieronymus, whom the priests have selected as the scapegoat who will throw himself off the harbor's Sacrifice Rock to appease the gods and bring relief to the city. Gordianus later witnesses what looks like murder: a cloaked woman falls from Sacrifice Rock, perhaps assisted by a man dressed in the armor of a Massilian soldier. The leader of Massilia, Apollonides, promises to investigate, but when a Gaulish merchant named Arausio believes his daughter, Rindel, was the cloaked woman who fell, Gordianus begins his own queries. In the meantime, he continues to search for information about his missing son. Is Meto alive and playing some treacherous game on Caesar's behalf? Or did he die in an attempt to escape from Pompey's minions in Massilia? Saylor presents a vivid tableau of an ancient city under siege and an empire riven by internecine strife. Readers will impatiently long for the next book in what stands as one of today's finest historical mystery series. Author tour; U.K. rights sold.