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Despite having put the project of building the palace for the king of the Atrebates, Togidubnus, back on track, there is no peace for Falco and his family in Londinium as Togidubnus' disgraced friend, Verovolcus, is found dead in a seedy Londinium taverna named the Shower of Gold, drowned in a well and stripped of its torque. Fearful of the diplomatic consequences, the local authorities in the form of Gaius Hilaris, Falco's old friend and uncle-in-law, urge Falco to take up inquiries into the death. At the same time, Maia Favonia, Falco's sister, Maia's children and Lucius Petronius "Petro" Longus, Falco's best friend, have appeared in Londinum and are lodged along with Falco's own family with Hilaris at his residence. The situation becomes more tense, with Verovolcus' old friend, Togidubnus breathing down Falco and Hilarius' necks, and a newly arrived businessman, Norbanus Murena, hitting on Maia.
Getting off to work, Falco and his wife Helena investigate Londinum and soon discovers that there are organised rackets terrorising the town, only to run into a fire at a bakery. Falco muses on how suspicious the fire is, since there was nobody in the bakery during the conflagration, and suspects that it was arson by whoever is behind the rackets. In the midst of a blaze, they witness a vagrant girl risk her life to save a pack of dogs. Touched by this show of heroism, Helena decides to adopt the girl, who is named Albia. The relationship between the Didii and Albia go off on a rocky start, however, and ends with Albia vandalising Hilarius' home and Falco is forced to take Albia out along with him. Simultaneously Petro also disappears, and at a very bad time too - a message soon comes to Rome, saying that two of his children have passed away.
Things soon go awry. Falco is set upon by Petro who warns him to stay away because he is going undercover, and then flees. Albia is abducted and forced into a brothel. Falco goes to the rescue and is assisted by an unlikely ally: a group of female gladiators (or gladiatrices) led by none other than an ex-girlfriend of Falco's named Chloris - and now going under the stage name of Amazonia. Unfortunately, the gladiatrices believe Falco to be responsible for Albia's plight and detain him, but he is rescued by both Albia and Helena (who was summoned by Albia). The meeting with Chloris temporarily strains Falco's marriage with Helena, but eventually they reconcile. Enquiries, however, begin to pay off and soon enough, with Chloris' help Falco manages to identify the two enforcers in town, who are nicknamed Pyro and Splice. Falco, his friends and comrades soon notice something else - many of the businesses in town all have names derived from myths surrounding Jupiter, the chief god of the Roman pantheon. Chloris also reveals to Falco that she saw Pyro and Splice up-end Verovolcus into the well, and that whoever is employing them is also harassing her and her gladiatrix group into working for him.
A corpse is found on the wharves in Londinum and sure enough, it is identified as being the missing baker whose shop was torched, Epaphroditus. Falco is rejoined by Petro', who reveals he is on an undercover mission for the vigiles in Rome and happened to witness Epaphroditus' murder (but unfortunately can't identify the perpetrators). After a brief discussion, it is decided that Falco has to arrest Pyro and Splice. As usual, the arrests don't go down well - a lawyer, Popillius, appears and attempts to free the enforcers but fails. Subsequently, Pyro is found poisoned and Splice manages to escape from custody before any of them can be interrogated by the chief torturer, a man who is ironically named Amicus (Latin: 'friend'). Meanwhile, king Togidubnus has managed to detain one of the employees of the Shower of Gold, a Briton named Flavia Fronta, who reveals who is behind the rackets in Britain and it's none other than Florius, the son of the late gangster Balbinus from Rome. Amicus' interrogations confirm that Florius is in Britain and that he is all too eager to avenge himself on Petro. Unfortunately for Falco and Petro, it's Florius who makes the first move by confronting Chloris at the local arena, with the intent of wiping her out. A confused battle soon takes place, with Falco and his entourage coming in to help Cloris and her comrades, and Splice coming in to take revenge on Florius. Chlorius manages to kill Splice, but is killed by Florius who subsequently escapes. A chance meeting with Popilius soon reveals a terrible truth: Norbanus, the businessman trying to woo Falco's sister Maia, is also an assocate of Florius. To make matters worse, both Norbanus and Maia have disappeared, and Falco and Petro' fear for the worst.