Count Orazio Falier urges his son-in-law, detective Guido Brunetti, to investigate the seemingly innocent plan of the Count's best friend, the elderly Gonzalo Rodríguez de Tejada, to adopt a much younger man as his son. Under Italian inheritance laws this man would then be heir to Gonzalo's entire fortune, a prospect Gonzalo's friends find appalling. Brunetti wonders why the old man can't be allowed his pleasure in peace. Then Gonzalo dies unexpectedly, and a friend in Venice for the memorial service is strangled in her hotel room after protesting the adoption.
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