On a cold Venetian night just before Christmas, an African street vendor is killed in a scuffle. The only witnesses are tourists who had been browsing the man's wares before his death. Arriving on the scene, Commissario Brunetti wonders why anyone would kill a "vu cumpra," an African purveying goods past normal shop hours and without a work permit. When Brunetti digs deeper into the investigation, he discovers that matters of great value are at stake within the immigrant society. Warned by his superior to resist further involvement in the case, Brunetti becomes even more determined to unearth the truth behind this mysterious killing. How far will he penetrate the murky subculture of the Venetian underworld? Read by David Colacci.
Although Brunetti takes neither pride nor pleasure in his cloak-and-dagger activities, readers will enjoy the paradoxical way in which justice is served in Venice -- by ignoring the law and doing the right thing the wrong way. Everyone in Brunetti's circle of confederates resorts to these stealth tactics, from his loyal secretary, Signorina Elettra, whose illegal hacking skills are legendary, to the kindly priest on San Zan Degola, who robs the parish treasury to minister to his flock of needy immigrants. ''At times,'' Leon tells us, ''Brunetti asked himself why he bothered with official police channels at all.'' In this subtle and sophisticated mystery, that is not a rhetorical question.