A striking departure for Laurence, author of a series featuring English food-writer Darina Lisle (Death at the Table, 1997 etc.). The scene is 18th-century London, and the sleuth is the real-life Canaletto, famed Venetian painter now visiting the city with hopes for new commissions, perhaps scenes of the still unfinished Westminster Bridge. He has arrived by ship, carrying his considerable fortune, and within minutes is nearly killed by villain Jack Scallion. Canaletto's life is saved, though, by young Fanny Rooker, who takes him to the house she shares with engraver brother Ned and his vindictive, pregnant wife Lucy. Alternating with Canaletto's story is a chronicle of the proposed marriage between Viscount Richard Purbeck, son of the near-impoverished Marquess of Brecon, and Charlotte, daughter of rich merchant Balthaser More, with Richard's secretary James Bennett acting as go-between. The Marquess has his own romantic idyll--with beautiful adventuress Anne Montesqui, whose half-brother Patrick Granville has another role to play. The jailing of Fanny Rooker on trumped-up charges and the bargain Canaletto strikes to effect her release, along with a couple of killings and numerous complications, some based on past events in Venice, produce a web of avarice and lust that Canaletto manages to untangle. Leisurely and literate, if a bit overextended: a tale to gladden the hearts of historical romance lovers, providing adequate fare for puzzle fans as well. Nicely done.