The body of a Vestal Virgin is dragged out of the River Tiber.
A senator bleeds to death in his bath. As the authorities turn a blind eye, Hortensia, daughter of the capital's most celebrated orator, feels compelled to investigate a trail of murders that lead to the dark heart of Rome.
Flying in the face of her husband's and father's attempts to protect her, rebelling against the constraints imposed upon her sex, she is drawn ever deeper into the corrupt underworld that lurks in the shadows cast by the city's all-powerful elite.
When fires begin to rage in the slums and more key witnesses are silenced, only one man can save Hortensia from becoming the next victim of a conspiracy to destroy the Republic: Lucrio, the damaged ex-gladiator to whom she already owes her life.
But will the secrets of his own tragic past threaten to subsume them both...