Charged by the Sultan to find a stolen painting by Bellini, Yashim the detective enlists the help of his friend Palewski, the Polish Ambassador, and goes undercover. Venice in 1840 is a city of empty palazzos and silent canals, and Palewski starts to mingle with Venetian dealers - but when two bodies turn up in the canal, he realises that art in Venice is a deadly business, and it is up to Yashim to attempt to rescue his intrepid friend from forces bigger than they had ever imagined . . .
Near the start of Edgar-winner Goodwin's fine third historical to feature the eunuch Yashim, who serves the Ottoman rulers of early 19th-century Turkey (after 2008's The Snake Stone), Yashim's close friend Stanislaw Palewski, the Polish ambassador to the Turkish sultan, accepts an undercover assignment on the sultan's behalf. Posing as an American, the diplomat travels to Venice in an effort to locate a portrait of Mehmet the Conqueror (who reclaimed Constantinople from the Christians in 1453), painted by the legendary artist Gentile Bellini. Fortunately for Palewski, Yashim, who has a secret plan for the painting's recovery, intervenes in time to set the mission on the right track after the murder of two art dealers. While Yashim initially plays a backstage role, the eunuch and a shadowy power broker engage in an exciting and complex duel of wits in the book's final quarter. Once again, Goodwin skillfully blends deduction, action sequences and period color.