Florence, June 1300. The body of an artist, his face covered in quicklime, is discovered next to the mosaic he had almost completed. Dante Alighieri, the newly appointed prior of the city of Florence (and the man who will one day write that exhaustive treatise on criminology, the Inferno), is on the case. It is his first official investigation. Obscure clues lead him up and down the streets of Florence, following a trail full of intrigue and mystery. Why have seven scholars, each a master of his art, assembled in the city? What was the secret that might have been revealed had the artist lived to complete his work? Was it an alchemist's formula to trans-form lead into gold? Did it have to do with Antilia, wild and beautiful, who dances nightly in a tavern owned by a one-armed crusader? Or perhaps with another elusive Beatrice, the heiress to the imperial Swabian throne, whose rumored arrival in the city could upset the political aspirations of Pope Boniface, Dante's nemesis?