In her fourth novel, Ruth Downie brings to life the corruption and treachery of Roman-occupied Britain, as it closes in on her winsome leading man, Gaius Petreius Ruso.
Ruso and Tilla, now newlyweds, have moved back to Britannia, where Ruso's old friend and colleague Valens has promised to help him find work. But it isn't the kind of work he'd had in mind-Ruso is tasked with hunting down a missing tax man named Julius Asper.
Of course, there's also something else missing: money. And the council of the town of Verulamium is bickering over what's become of it. Compelled to delve deeper by a threat from his old sparring partner, Metellus, Ruso discovers that the good townsfolk may not be as loyal to Rome as they like to appear.
While Tilla tries to comfort Asper's wife, an anonymous well-wisher is busy warning the couple to get away from the case before they get hurt. Despite our hero's best efforts to get himself fired as investigator, he and his bride find themselves trapped at the heart of an increasingly treacherous conspiracy involving theft, forgery, buried treasure, and the legacy of Boudica, the Rebel Queen.
When tax collector Julius Asper goes missing, physician Gaius Petreius Ruso, who'd rather get medical work, reluctantly investigates in Downie's superb fourth historical set in second-century Roman Britain (after Persona Non Grata). Since Asper's brother and assistant, Julius Bericus, has also disappeared, some suspect the two men have run off with the emperor's tax money, but Ruso considers it more likely that robbers attacked the brothers on the road from the provincial town of Veralamium to Londinium. When the body of a man who fits Asper's description turns up in a Londinium alley, Ruso has a murder case on his hands, and must journey to Veralamium for answers. Downie excels in bringing the ancient world to life as well as making the attitudes and customs of its inhabitants accessible to a modern audience. She also succeeds at leavening the whodunit plot with flashes of humor, many stemming from her hero's British wife, Tilla.