This novel presents him with an apparently straightforward case when two American students are dumped from a boat on the landing stage outside a hospital. Their injuries suggest one of them has been badly beaten, but the case takes an unexpected turn when Brunetti identifies the men who left them at the hospital. It may be that Leon felt she had to do something different with this landmark novel, but the plot is thin and the ending feels contrived to challenge our expectations of the Brunetti series.
The mystery is intriguing, but following the progress of Brunetti via canal and calle provides the real pleasure; this has been the case since Brunetti’s first appearance in Death at La Fenice (1992). Crossing St Mark’s Square, for example: “He ambled, delighting in the sight of the flags swirling about in the breeze, and the horses poised, front legs lifted delicately, gazing down the Piazza, as if pausing which way to go. How wonderful they were, even if only copies, how bold and excessive, like so much within his line of sight.” It’s as if you’re there, the wind in your face, the baroque splendour of La Serenissima all around. If only . . .