In Venice to research the identities of the Ospedali, the nameless orphan girls Vivaldi trained to be musicians, and to participate in a concert of his masterworks, bassoonist Nicola Gibbons wakes from a nap to find the antique instrument concert promoter Signori Sandretti loaned her missing. To find it, Nicki calls her London housemate, freelance book-translator and inveterate vagabond Cassandra Reilly (Trouble in Transylvania, 1993, etc.) and begs her to come to Italy. By the time Cassandra arrives, Nicki’s disappeared, and in less time than it takes a vaporetto to navigate the few stops from San Marco Square to the Hotel Danieli’s sumptuous pier, she uncovers three suspects, each eager to cause trouble for her friend. One, a rival scholar, wants Nicki out of the way so he can research the Ospedali without competition; the other two, also concert bassoonists, claim to be descendants of a Holocaust survivor who was kin to Nicki’s true love, the late Olivia Wulf, and feel more entitled to Olivia’s fortune than the interloping Nicki. The girls will flirt with the girls; the boys with the boys; and there will be unisex tailing leading to a body drifting under the Danieli dock before Nicki is exonerated, Cassandra decides which book she’ll translate next, and the Grand Canal is awash in the sounds of Vivaldi, jazz, and Klezmer.
Droll humor, high intelligence, outrageous Edith Sitwell–like wardrobes, and a chance to revel in the best Venice offers, from the synagogues of the Ghetto Nuova to the cafes on the back canals.