At a dinner party given by his parents-in-law, Commissario Brunetti meets Franca Marinello, the wife of a prosperous Venetian businessman. He's charmed - perhaps too charmed, suggests his wife Paola - by her love of Virgil and Cicero, but shocked by her appearance.
A few days later, Brunetti is visited by Carabinieri Maggior Filippo Guarino from the nearby city of Marghera. As part of a wider investigation into Mafia takeovers of businesses in the region, Guarino wants information about the owner of a trucking company who was found murdered in his office. He believes the man's death is connected to the illegal transportation of refuse - and more sinister material - in his company's trucks. No stranger to mutual suspicion and competition between rival Italian police departments, Brunetti is nevertheless puzzled by the younger man's behaviour.
Eventually Guarino agrees to email a photo of his suspect, but by the time the photograph arrives, he himself is dead. Was he killed because he got too close? And how is it that Franca Marinello is involved?
The 18th installment of Leon's wickedly entertaining series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti (after 2008's The Girl of His Dreams) focuses on garbage, illuminating the author's ongoing concern about the environment. Venice contends with polluted canals and a huge chemical complex. Trash litters Naples' streets. Incinerators in south Italy are full, and trucks laden with toxic waste travel the roads. Brunetti becomes an ecological expert when an investigator with the carabiniere wants him to look into illegal hauling that has resulted in a truck driver's murder. On a personal level, Brunetti's father-in-law asks him to investigate a potential business partner, Maurizio Cataldo. But Brunetti, who's devoted to his wife and children, is more intrigued by Cataldo's much younger second wife, whose once beautiful looks were ruined by a face lift. Leon flawlessly melds the two plot threads as she parallels her characters' vulnerability with that of Venice. 7-city author tour.