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Naples, 1750. In the dead of the night, three men with swords burst into the palazzo of a marquis. The intruders' leader, the Prince of San Severo, accuses the marquis of being an imposter, and demands to know a secret that he believes the man harbours. In the fight that ensues, the false marquis escapes over the rooftops, leaving behind a burning palazzo and a raging prince who is now obsessed with finding his quarry at any cost. Baghdad, 2003. An American army unit hunting down Saddam's inner circle makes a horrifying discovery: a state-of-the-art, concealed lab where dozens - men, woman, children - have died after enduring gruesome experiments. The mysterious scientist they were after, a man believed to be working on a bioweapons program and known only as the hakeem - the doctor - escapes, taking with him the startling truth about his work. A puzzling clue is left behind, crudely carved into the wall of one of the underground prison's cells: a circular symbol of a snake feeding on its own tail. So begins Raymond Khoury's explosive new novel, placing two bold women at the centre of the action as they get caught up in a murderous trail of ancient clues.