DECEIT, TYRANNY, DEATH. Games the Romans play best. Sextus Ingentius Verpa, imperial senator, notorious informer and scheming minion of the despotic Emperor Domitian, has been butchered in the night. The Emperor has decreed that punishment will be swift and has commissioned Gaius Plinius Secundus - better known as Pliny the Younger - to investigate. Pliny is no detective, but unless he can find the murderer by the close of the 'Ludi Romani', or Roman Games, all Verpa's slaves - forty men and women - will be burned alive in the arena. That gives Pliny just fifteen days. Fifteen days that will threaten Pliny's conscience, his life and the stability of Rome itself.