Commissario Guido Brunetti, taking two weeks away from the Venetian Questura for complete rest and solitude, gets both more and less solitude than he bargained for and about the same amount of rest as when he’s home.
An impetuous inspiration about how to save a subordinate from embarrassment ends up sending Brunetti to the hospital, where he’s diagnosed with high stress and urged to take some time off. His thoughtful wife, Paola, comes up with the perfect retreat: a villa her aunt owns on the nearby island of Sant’Erasmo. Packing four volumes of the classics, Brunetti (The Waters of Eternal Youth, 2016, etc.) prepares to soothe his soul by doing something physical by day and reading Pliny by night. The something physical he prescribes himself is rowing with Davide Casati, the villa’s 70-something custodian, who, to Brunetti’s delight, turns out to be an old friend of his father. But Casati is haunted by sadness over his dead wife, a mysterious ailment that’s killing the bees he keeps and loves, and a secret he’s not willing to confess even to his old friend’s son. “Do you think some of the things we do can never be forgiven?” he asks Brunetti enigmatically, shortly before the Commissario finds him drowned beneath his overturned boat. It’s an accident, of course, but Brunetti’s keen judgment, which never takes a day off, is convinced that the timing of Casati’s death is anything but coincidental and sets out to find—not the person who killed him (fans of this highly regarded series will know better than to expect much drama in this revelation) but the reason he died.
Perhaps the most minimal of all Leon’s mysteries, with no suspects to speak of and few details of the Commissario’s domestic life or his eternal professional tussles at the Questura. Think of this barely-a-case as a vacation for your own soul.