The stench of corruption that always hangs over Venice grows disconcertingly literal when Commissario Guido Brunetti (The Girl of His Dreams, 2008, etc.) gets a case involving the illegal disposal of toxic waste.
The morning after he spends a night dining with his wife Paola’s titled parents and their guests—including most notably La Super Liftata, Franca Marinello, the much younger wife of a well-connected businessman who’s trying to entice Conte Orazio Falier to invest money in China—Brunetti is confronted with what seems like a much homelier state of affairs. Maggiore Filipo Guarino, of the Marghera Carabinieri, is looking into the death of Stefano Ranzato, a reluctant police informant from Tessera who was killed by whoever robbed his trucking company, and wants some local help gathering information about his relationship with an unsavory character in San Marcuola. Guarino, who seems convinced that Ranzato’s death was no casual slaughter, is just as mysterious in his own way as Franca Marinello, but apart from that Brunetti sees no connection between a scandal concerning the Mafia’s infiltration of the waste-disposal business and a charming ex-model with a fondness for Cicero and the world’s most grotesque facelift. It’s not until a violent climax at the Casinò that the two halves of the plot come together, and then the connection is more convincing in metaphorical than literal terms.
On the plus side, there are the usual sharp scenes of Brunetti at work and at home, and a surprisingly warm relationship develops between Brunetti and his hitherto remote father-in-law.