Architectural historian Franz Haller has an appointment with Cardinal Stockhausen in Rome. He is to supervise a restoration project at the Cardinals' church. Before returning to Australia he takes a holiday in Sirmione, the ancient place on the southern shore of Lake Garda. It is an island steeped in the history of the great Roman poet Catullus whose family owned a villa there. He meets Esther and they fall in love. Franz and Esther's happiness makes them unaware of gathering clouds as they become involved in a plot to kill the Archbishop of Sydney. These events take place at a time when the Catholic Church is still seeking forgiveness from the community for the sex scandals that happened to people their care over many years. Author Richard Falkinger explains: 'I was privileged to work for the Catholic Church from 1970 into the 1990s. I was there in the 1980s at the time of the first public revelations of sexual abuse within the church. Years later I learned a lot about the false accusations made against Cardinal George Pell, and that gave me the idea for this novel. I wanted to give readers a story that presented the complexities of such cases, that shows how any one of them may not necessarily be what it seems, nor that the outcome is always just or fair. I particularly wanted to tell a story of forgiveness and compassion for those people who are involved, whether as victim or perpetrator.'