The year is 1502 in the waning days of the Republic of Venice. It is easy for us to forget that the Italy we know today did not exist until 1871, though the process of unification took decades.
It is also important for this story to know that Lorenzo Valla wrote the Discourse on the Forgery of the Alleged Donation of Constantine, finally published in 1517, the same year Martin Luther posted his 95 theses.
The existence of the document is the reason bodies are discovered in the Canal Grande. In this story, powerful men want the Discourse destroyed and all costs. A German monk who had lived many years in Venice was called back to solve the crimes and protect the Discourse. Mathias Munster, conflicted about his relationship with God, agrees to take on the dangerous job.
The story gives a nice slice of history as well as a well-told fictional story. I found the first few chapters a bit plodding as Bruni gave us a great deal of information without moving the story very much. There were a few issues with the translation choices, especially the use of “okay,” a modern Americanism. But is it a good story. You can skip through the repeated should I–shouldn’t I’s.