Murder stalks the guests at a villa outside Venice.
Noted castrato Tito Amato (Painted Veil, 2005, etc.) is invited to become a cast member of a new (1740) opera written by a paranoid German composer and financed by Octavia Dolfini, star-struck wife of a wealthy ironmonger who recently won a country estate gambling. Lured by a healthy salary and the fact that his brother-in-law Gussie, an English artist, has also been offered a large fee by Vincenzo Dolfini to immortalize his new home, he’s surprised to discover that French soprano Gabrielle Fouquet insisted on him for the leading role. It’s only after an anonymous stranger, identified only by a Russian pistol, is found dead in the house that he meets Madame Fouquet and her cruel and controlling husband and is shocked to see she is actually his sister Grisella Amato, who had departed Venice with a wealthy Russian, leaving scandal in her wake. Tito’s brother Alessandro, who’d been scouring Constantinople for Grisella, recently wrote to Tito that she’d died in a fire. When one of the opera singers is found dead in a vat of crushed grapes, Tito is anxious to discover whether a mad killer is among them—or whether his sister’s checkered past is catching up to her.
An accomplished historical novel that’s also a classic country-house murder mystery.