Venice might be sinking into the sea, but as long as Commissario Guido Brunetti is around, there will be someone to make sure the city doesn't become a total swamp of cynicism and corruption.
This is Leon's 25th book about Brunetti (Falling in Love, 2015, etc.), and the usual suspects are all here. There's Paola, Brunetti's wife, able to whip up a three-course lunch between teaching English literature and reading Henry James for fun. Their children, Raffi and Chiara, provide mealtime repartee that often leads to philosophical debate: "I wondered if it's against the law to ask people for money on the street," Chiara says one day. Brunetti’s boss, the professionally dim Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta, is once again manipulated by Brunetti, and Patta’s secretary, the supersharp Signorina Elettra, as always plays the Internet like a maestro: at one point, Brunetti finds her “with both hands raised and motionless over the keyboard of her computer, a pianist about to begin the final movement of a sonata.” The book begins at another glittering dinner party given by Brunetti's mother-in-law, Contessa Falier, at which he and Paola are representing ordinary Venetians while another countess, Demetriana Lando-Continui, tries to raise money from wealthy foreigners for her preservation group. Contessa Lando-Continui also wants to ask Brunetti a favor: could he please look into something that happened 15 years earlier, when her granddaughter almost drowned in a canal, suffering permanent brain damage? This gives him a chance to walk around the city, wondering how “tourists find things, with only street addresses to guide them? He didn’t like this new age, much preferred having someone tell him the address he was looking for was the house with the new shutters to the right of the greengrocer opposite the flower shop that had the cacti in the window. Any Venetian would understand that.”
The biggest mystery is how the reader can figure out what happened so quickly, yet it takes the commissario di polizia the whole book to catch on. Still, the pleasures of spending time with Brunetti and the gang have never been greater.