Tad Fellows is an American graduate student working on an archaeological dig in rural England. He is also a wounded veteran of the Afghanistan war, where he found purpose and identity as a cog in the vast military machine of the U.S. Army. A quiet man prone to unexplained blackouts, guided and comforted by the stoic advice of Roman philosopher Marcus Aurelius, Tad is intent on doing what he now believes is his destined role—protecting the dig and its artifacts, including the mummified corpse of a Roman soldier. The dig completed, Tad is assigned to catalogue its artifacts in the cellar of a Cambridge museum. At ease in the world only when he is surrounded by the detritus of the past, Tad believes himself content.
Instead, he finds himself at the center of a maelstrom where academic rivalries, international politics, the stultifying English class system, and his own awkward foray into love leave him bewildered and more alone than ever. Marcus’s wisdom no longer suffices, and a series of devastating betrayals drive Tad deeper into his own dark world, toward a cataclysmic climax.
Novelist Bernard Schopen is at the top of his form in this gripping, perceptive account of a misfit struggling to hold fast to ancient values of loyalty and duty in a world where little is as it seems and only the past can be trusted.