A Comedy of Terrors
Published Apr 2021
The Orion’s Dog was open, because it was the kind of bar that never closed. Customers were trying to buy their breakfast, though somewhat hampered. The small counter was taken up by someone lying upon it. They persisted, managing to stretch over him, while the dogged barman passed across their orders, placing cups and bowls on the counter man’s chest while he took the money.
The person laid on the counter did not require first aid. Nothing would revive him.
He was dead.
Saturnalia, the Romans’ mid-December feast, nominally to celebrate the Sun’s rebirth but invariably a drunken riot. Flavia Albia needs a case to investigate, but all work is paused.
The Aventine is full of fracturing families. Wives plot to leave their husbands, husbands plot to spend more time with their mistresses. Masters must endure slaves taking obscene liberties, while aggressive slaves are learning to ape dangerous masters. But no one wants to hire an investigator during the holiday.
Albia is lumped with her own domestic stress: overexcited children and bilious guests, too many practical jokes, and her magistrate husband Tiberius preoccupied with local strife. He fears a Nut War. Nuts are both the snack and missiles of choice of tipsy celebrants, so there is a fortune to be made. This year a hustling gang from the past is horning in on the action.
As the deadly menace strikes even closer to home and with law and order paused for partying, Albia and Tiberius must go it alone.
The Emperor has promised the people a spectacular entertainment – but Domitian himself is a target for the old criminals’ new schemes.
Can the Undying Sun survive the winter solstice, or will criminal darkness descend upon Rome?