Commissario Guido Brunetti longs to escape the crowds of tourists and oppressive heat of Venice in August. But before he can join his family on holiday in the mountains, a folder containing court records lands on his desk. An old friend suspects a sinister motive behind a local court's notorious inefficiency. Meanwhile, Brunetti's colleague, Inspector Lorenzo Vianello, is concerned about his aunt's sudden- and expensive-interest in astrology and enlists the commissario's help. Just when it seems Brunetti will be able to make his getaway, a brutal crime shocks the city and he forces himself to shake off the heat and get down to work.