A dying drug dealer and an elderly woman dressed in head-to-toe satin are among the lifelong Venetians whose apartments we visit, alongside Commissario Guido Brunetti, in Leon's leisurely 27th mystery.
As the book opens, Brunetti has two unsettling meetings. First, his boss, the pompous and dim Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta, calls him into his office to ask about rumors that someone at the Questura has been leaking classified information—and possibly also spreading gossip about Patta's henchman, Lt. Scarpa. Then Brunetti is visited by a woman he recognizes as a colleague of his wife, Paola, who teaches English literature at the university. Professoressa Elisa Crosera thinks her son is in trouble, probably with drugs, and wants Brunetti to solve her problem by arresting whoever's been selling to the students at the boy's expensive private school. "Ah, how wonderful to be able to do that, Brunetti thought. Arrest them and keep them until they went for trial and then have the judges send them to prison....Pity it didn't work that way." Brunetti checks to make sure the Carabinieri is investigating the problem of drugs in the schools and then, "his conscience salved," puts it out of his head—until a week later, when the professoressa's husband is found unconscious at the bottom of a bridge, unlikely to ever wake up. Could he have threatened a drug dealer? Or perhaps something untoward was going on in his job as an accountant? And what does his elegant but infirm aunt have to do with it? Leon provides the usual pleasures of walking the streets of Venice with Brunetti, guided by the "Venetian system of batlike echolocation" that helps him get around. It's good to see Brunetti admiring his colleague Claudia Griffoni's professional skills and also good that he keeps it to himself when he admires her looks. No one wants their favorite Venetian detective sexually harassing another commissario.
The mystery isn't much to write home about, though the last few pages do provide Leon's trademark moral ambiguity—even the perpetrator is sympathetic—and, as always, it's a pleasure spending time in Brunetti's world.