“They killed him. It was bad money. I told him no,” Benedetta Toso gasps the words about her recently-deceased husband, Vittorio Fadalto. Even though he is not sure she can hear him Brunetti softly promises he and Griffoni will look into what initially appears to be a private family tragedy. They discover that Fadalto worked in the field collecting samples of contamination for a company that measures the cleanliness of Venice’s water supply and that he had died in a mysterious motorcycle accident. Distracted briefly by Vice Questore Patta’s obsession with youth crime in Venice, Brunetti is bolstered once more by the remarkable research skills of Patta’s secretary, Signora Elettra Zorzi. Piecing together the tangled threads, in time Brunetti comes to realize the perilous meaning in the woman’s accusation and the threat it reveals to the health of the entire region. But justice in this case proves to be ambiguous, as Brunetti is reminded it can be when, seeking solace, he reads Aeschylus’s classic play The Eumenides.
As she has done so often through her memorable characters and storytelling skill, Donna Leon once again engages our sensibilities as to the differences between guilt and responsibility.
For years, Chen Cao managed to balance the interests of the Communist Party and the promises made by his job. He was both a Chief Inspector of Special Investigations of the Shanghai Police Department and the deputy party secretary of the bureau. He was considered a potential rising star in the Party until, after one too many controversial cases that embarrassed powerful elements in the Party, Chen Cao found himself neutralized. Under the guise of a major promotion, a new position with a substantial title but no power, he's stripped of his job duties and isolated. But that's still not enough, as it becomes increasingly clear that someone is attempting to set him up, for public disgrace and possibly worse.
Chen Cao is technically in charge of the corruption case of a "Red Prince"---a powerful, high Party figure who embodies the ruthless ambition, greed, and corruption that is increasingly evident in the new China. This "Red Prince" has the kind of connections and power to deflect any attempts to bring him to justice. Now with no power, few allies, and with his own reputation on the line, the former Inspector Chen is facing the most dangerous investigation of his career, and his life.