What does a father owe his son—and what do sons owe their fathers? Venice's most thoughtful detective, Commissario Guido Brunetti, has occasion to ponder these questions in several forms during his latest outing.
Surprisingly, Brunetti's own son, Raffi, doesn't play a large role, though we're treated to the usual Brunetti family conversations over delicious home-cooked lunches. The story begins with Brunetti's father-in-law, Conte Falier, asking him to look into something: There's gossip going around that the Conte's best friend, retired art dealer Gonzalo Rodríguez de Tejada, is planning to adopt his lover, Attilio Circetti, a much younger man, since that would be the only way Italy's inheritance laws would allow him to pass his entire estate to Attilio when he dies. The Conte is much too discreet to say it in so many words, but he wants to make sure his friend isn't being scammed. Brunetti doesn't want to get involved, but he finds himself moved when his father-in-law regretfully says, "I've just asked someone I love to spy on someone else I love." You can almost hear the song "Do You Love Me?" from Fiddler on the Roof playing in the background as Brunetti ponders the sentiment he's never heard from the Conte before. How can he say no after that? A few days later, another request: Brunetti's boss, Vice-Questore Patta, has a story about how his wife was insulted by an 8-year-old boy who lives in their building. He wants Brunetti to find out if there's "something wrong with the boy," and if not, to look into the parents' backgrounds. If the boy does have "real problems," he says, he doesn't "want to cause them more trouble." Could Patta be more sensitive than he always seemed? Eventually, of course, there are deaths—one natural, one not—but as usual the mystery takes a back seat to Leon's (The Temptation of Forgiveness, 2018, etc.) beautiful writing and the pleasure of spending time with Brunetti and company.
Leon says Venetians are "accustomed to swimming in the swirling froth of information and misinformation that flowed through so much of daily life," and readers can trust her to guide them safely to dry land.