Brunetti's endurance is tested more than ever before. During an interrogation of an entitles, arrogant man suspected of giving drugs to a young girl who then died, Brunetti acts rashly, doing something he will quickly come to regret. In the fallout, he realizes that he needs a break, needs to get away from the stifling problems of his work. When Brunetti is greanted leave from the Questura, his wife, Paola, suggests he stay at the villa of a relative on Sant'Erasmo, one of the largest islands in the laguna. There he intends to pass his days rowing, and his nights reading Pliny's Natural History. The recuperative stay goes according to plan until Davide Casati, the caretaker of the house on Sant'Erasmo, goes missing following a sudden storm. Now, Brunetti feels compelled to investigate, to set aside his leave of absence and understand what happened to the man who had become his friend.