It is a miserably hot August in Venice and Guido Brunetti is dreaming of his holiday. But his colleague Vianello's aunt may the victim of a clever scam, and Brusca, head of the department of employment records at the Commune has a problem. Various court cases are being delayed for months, a procedure which benefits one of the parties, by Judge Coltellini, who appears to have her infatuated clerk Araldo Fontana trapped in her web.
When Brunetti leaves for his family holiday, getting away from Venice's stifling heat the train barely reaches Bolzano before he is brought back to investigate Fontana's murder, during an apparent mugging.
Donna Leon is back to form with this very Italian story of corruption, a clever scam, nepotism, and different forms of love cleverly worked into less than 300 pages.
Brusca sighed, then said in a sober voice, 'I think a great number of people are more interested in money than in love. Or even sex.'
The beautiful Paola Brunetti along with their children Raffi and Chiara add some eccentric charm to what is otherwise a fairly bleak tale of human frailty.
His daughter had gone to Milano, Brunetti reflected, site of the Brera Gallery, site of Leonardo's Cenacolo, site of the greatest Gothic Cathedral in Italy, and she had gone shopping.
Brunetti is assisted as usual by the ever reliable Ispettore Vianello, and the cool computer expert Signorina Elettra, while the sycophantic Vice-Questore Patta is up to his usual tricks.
She promised to get to it when the Vice-Questore was safely off to the Island of Ponza, where he and his family were to be the guests of the head of the city council of Venice, who had a summer home there.
'Yet another way to ensure the complete objectivity of the forces of order in any investigation of local politicians', Brunetti said when he heard the name of Patta's host.
Donna Leon writes to a formula that is successful because of the interesting characters, the Venetian setting, Brunetti's meals, and also because the books recount the struggles of honest men like Brunetti and Vianello trying to work in a system that is basically corrupt. Within her cleverly varied plots she is able to discuss all the problems that beset Italy including immigration, Mafia, the Church and endemic nepotism.
I know I will continue to read this fine series.