In a field outside of Venice, the partially decayed corpse of a young man is discovered in a makeshift shallow grave. What identifies him is his family ring--he is of noble lineage and has been "missing" for over a year. Detective Brunetti finds himself telling the deceased parents about their son's unfortunate end and then is stuck in a web of lies as he tries to discover what circumstances led to the boy's death.
There was a very public story of kidnapping, but Brunetti doesn't believe it. There is more to the Lorenzoni family and its business dealings than meets the eye. With the help of his connected father-in-law, the Count, Brunetti manages to uncover unsettling truths about the ties that bind.