Early one morning, a sleepy Brunetti confronts a grisly sight, the bloated body of a young man fished out of a fetid Venetian canal. The corpse turns out to be that of an American soldier who was stationed at the U.S. Army post in Vicenza, near Venice. Brunettis foppish, media-conscious boss likes his cases tied up quickly in the neatest packages possible, and he pressures Brunetti to declare the death drug-related and leave it at that. But the thoroughly spotless life of the deceased and the rarity of drug-related crime in Venice make Brunetti doubt his superiors advice even more than usual. Throwing protocol to the winds, Brunetti scours the base at Vicenza for clues. The suspicious suicide of a colleague of the dead soldier and a little boys rash point Brunetti toward toxic waste dumping and an insidious cover-up that extends from the Mafia to the U.S. Army to the police and perhaps even to Brunettis own family. Two people have already been killed for trying to expose this cabal. Will Brunetti be the third? Leons portrayals of Venice and the Army base - an improbable island of Bermuda shorts and Baskin-Robbins in the Italian countryside - are consistently fascinating. Most memorable, though, is her depiction of Brunetti. As a devoted family man and pillar of the community who quietly abhors the powers that be, he is original, subtly drawn, and completely irresistible.
Guido Brunetti, commissario of the Venice police who was first introduced in the mystery Death At La Fenice, returns in a case involving the Mafia, the Italian government, and the U.S. military. When an American body is found floating in one of the citys picturesque canals, Brunetti probes into a case that lands him knee-deep in a toxic waste cover-up.