Venice, a city steeped in a thousand years of history, art and architecture, teeters in precarious balance between endurance and decay. Its architectural treasures crumble—foundations shift, marble ornaments fall—even as efforts to preserve them are underway.
This book opens in 1996, when a dramatic fire destroys the historic Fenice opera house, a catastrophe for Venetians. Arriving three days after the fire, Berendt becomes a kind of detective—inquiring into the nature of life in this remarkable museum-city—while gradually revealing the truth about the fire. He introduces us to a rich cast of characters, Venetian and expatriate, in a tale full of atmosphere and surprise which reveals a world as finely drawn as a still-life painting. The fire and its aftermath serve as a leitmotif, adding elements of chaos, corruption, and crime and contributing to the ever-mounting suspense.