As Venice experiences a debilitating heatwave, Commissario Brunetti escapes the city to spend time with his family. For Ispettore Vianello, however, the weather is the last thing on his mind. It appears his aunt has become obsessed with horoscopes and has been withdrawing large amounts of money from the family business. Not knowing what to do, he consults Brunetti and asks permission to trail her.
Meanwhile, Brunetti receives a visit from a friend who works at the Commune. It seems that discrepancies have been occurring at the Courthouse involving a judge and an usher with a flawless track record. Intrigued, Brunetti asks Signorina Elettra to find out what she can while he's away.
When news reaches Brunetti that the usher from the Courthouse has been viciously murdered, he returns to investigate. But why would someone want a good man dead, and what might his death have to do with the Courthouse discrepancies?
Set during an oppressive Venetian August, Leon's masterful 19th Commisario Guido Brunetti mystery (after 2009's About Face) presents Brunetti with two puzzles that impinge on his most intimate beliefs. Close associate Ispettore Vianello, who's worried about his elderly aunt's involvement with an astrologer, nudges Brunetti toward ruminations on the differences in male and female evidences of affection. Meanwhile, Toni Brusca, head of employment records at the Commune, who's perplexed by a female judge's erratic court case postponements, surprises Brunetti by implying that a woman could be more criminal than a man. Brunetti patiently untangles a sordid skein of desires warped, trusts abused, and loves distorted into depravity. As one good man who still believes in the rule of law despite his disgust at Italy's mounting corruption, Brunetti allows readers to share his belief that decency and honesty can, for a little while, stave off the angst of the modern world.