In the first century A.D., during Domitian's reign, Flavia Albia is ready for a short break from her family. So despite the oppressive July heat, she returns to Rome, leaving them at their place on the coast. Albia, daughter of Marcus Didius Falco, the famed private informer (now retired), has taken up her father's former profession, and it's time to get back to work. The first order of business, however, is the corpse that was found in a chest sent as part of a large lot to be sold by the Falco family auction house. As the senior family representative in Rome, it falls upon Albia to identify the corpse, find out why he was killed, who killed him, and, most important, how did it end up in the chest.
At the same time, her potential young man, Faustus, comes looking for help with his friend Sextus's political campaign. Between the auction business and Roman politics, it's not quite clear which one is the more underhanded and duplicitous. Both, however, are tied together by the mysterious body in the chest, and if Albia isn't able to solve that mystery, it won't be the only body to drop.
It's 89 C.E., and Rome is under the heel of the tyrannical emperor Domitian in Davis's entertaining third whodunit featuring informer Flavia Albia (after 2014's Enemies at Home). The discovery of an unidentified male corpse inside an armored chest, which Flavia's family was putting up for auction, launches her on a murder investigation. Since the chest was untouched in a warehouse for a decade, Flavia speculates that the killer hoped the body would be completely unrecognizable by the time it was found. As she conducts her probe, she also accepts an assignment to check out the opponents of Vibius Marinus, a candidate in the looming municipal elections. Davis lets the action drift at times and gives too much attention to a romantic subplot, but she does her usual smooth job of educating readers with historical tidbits (e.g., explaining that the word candidate derives from the word white, because those seeking elected office wore robes whitened with chalk).