Life is sweet for Flavia Albia and her soon-to-be husband Faustus. But his new job as a building contractor runs into a problem: At the Garden of the Hesperides a barmaid went missing years before; now the workmen start unearthing her bones.
Albia takes on the task of finding out what happened. Five more skeletons are discovered. Despite the fact that nobody seems to know or care who died, violent attempts are made to stop her enquiries.
Soon Albia is exploring the world of Roman streetlife, where bars are brothels, workers lead brutal lives, foreigners are muscling in on the gambling syndicates, and extortion is commonplace. What's more there's little time to solve the mystery before the wedding day when Albia is expected to show Rome that her affair with Manlius is a much more than a casual fling. The gods, however, have other ideas...