As a favour to his wealthy father-in-law, the Count Falier, Commissario Guido Brunetti agrees to investigate the seemingly innocent wish of the Count's best friend, the elderly and childless Gonzalo, to adopt a younger man as his son. Under Italian inheritance laws, this man would become the sole heir to Gonzalo's substantial fortune, something which Gonzalo's friends, including the Count, find appalling. For his part, Brunetti wonders why they're so intent on meddling in the old man's business. Not long after Brunetti meets with Gonzalo, the elderly man unexpectedly passes away from natural causes. Old and frail, Gonzalo's death goes unquestioned, and a few of his oldest friends gather in Venice to plan the memorial service. But when Berta, a striking woman and one of Gonzalo's closest confidantes, is strangled in her hotel room, Brunetti is drawn into long-buried secrets from Gonzalo's past. What did Berta know? And who would go to such lengths to ensure it would remain hidden?