It's August in Rome, and Nic Costa's vacation is about to be cut short by a scream, a girl covered in blood, and a man lying dead in the Via Beatrice Cenci. It seems that Malise Gabriel, a scholar with an impressive list of enemies, stepped onto faulty scaffolding for a cigarette and fell to his death. On the surface, it's no more than an unfortunate accident. But the deeper Costa looks -- into the facts that don't add up, into the haunted eyes of Gabriel's beautiful daughter, Mina, and into the mysterious links between the present and the past -- the more he's haunted by disturbing parallels with a centuries-old crime: In 1599, Beatrice Cenci was beheaded by the Vatican for murdering her father, a man known for unthinkable sexual crimes. Does Mina's obsession with Beatrice intimate her own family's dark secrets, or is someone using her as a smoke screen for a far deadlier plan? Soon another body is discovered and Nic comes to doubt his own first impressions. Something evil is circling Mina, her angry and silent mother, her runaway brother, and her family's checkered history in England, the United States, and Italy. And now that something is closing in fast for the kill.