Donna Leon's sweetly cynical Venetian cop Brunetti has his principles, but is always prepared to bend them a little, to appeal to his own Friends in High Places. When bureaucrat Rossi starts to investigate whether his apartment in a historic building has any right to exist, he and his wife start to look for leverage;
At no time did it occur to him, as it did not occur to Paola, to approach the matter legally, to find out the names of the proper offices and officials and the proper steps to follow ... Venetians ignored them, knowing that the only way to deal with problems like this was by means of acquaintances, friendships, contacts and debts built up over a lifetime.
When Rossi rings him at his office, seeking help, and is found dead under some scaffolding, Brunetti feels a particular obligation to find out whether he fell, or was thrown. His investigations take him to the heart of corruption, to money lenders and officials and drug dealers and petty thugs, and to solutions and resolutions that are only ever going to be partial. Brunetti is an attractive detective because he has a human preparedness to make compromises and a judicious sense of when it is morally appropriate, and when it is not. And as always in this excellent and popular series, the true protagonist is the city of Venice, its buildings and its weather and its smells. --Roz Kaveney