May, AD41.

‘You know Tullia Gemella, Marcus?’ Perilla said. She was looking a bit chewed.

‘Ah… yeah.’ I gave the lady sitting across from her a nod. An overstatement there: I knew the name, sure – one of the recent and extremely keen recruits, with a thing, according to Perilla, for lyric pieces involving shepherdesses, rustic swains and a general atmosphere of bosk – but I’d never actually seen her in person. The adjectives ‘large’ and ‘imposing’ sprang to mind. Also the phrase ‘a strong personality’: even although the lady hadn’t opened her mouth yet, she just radiated self-possession, confidence, and a knowledge of her own considerable worth. So must Hannibal have looked when he was faced with the Alps and muttered: ‘I’ll bloody have you lot for a start!’

Well, it explained Perilla’s chewed look, anyway; in the time between the end of the poetry-klatsch meeting and my arrival, Things must’ve been Fraught.

‘Pleased to meet you, Tullia Gemella,’ I said. ‘I’ll just –’ I turned to go.

‘No, don’t leave, dear,’ Perilla said quickly. ‘We’ve been waiting for you to get back. Gemella wanted a word.’

‘Yeah? What about?’

‘Her brother’s been murdered.’


Gaius Tullius is not a popular bunny, not even with his wife or sister; but why should anyone go to the lengths of actually killing him? Then there’s the matter of the body which Corvinus’s adopted daughter and stepson happen on in the gardens of the Pollio library.

Two deaths, completely unconnected. Or are they?

The seventeenth book in the Marcus Corvinus series.