It begins with a troubling encounter on a flight to Venice. She is a Roman aristocrat and art dealer on the search for undervalued paintings and he a mysterious tour guide. She is invited to cosmopolitan parties by Venetian social and art glitterati. Mr. Silvera, a guide whose erudition and distinction are in sharp contrast with his beat-up suitcase and stain-spotted raincoat, drags his shabby tourists from monument to monument. Their passion will last three days, long enough to be exposed to unscrupulous art dealers and other scammers, passing off worthless paintings as part of a famous collection. Silvera seems to know every language and all secrets. But who is he really? Around them, the canals and lagoons of Venice, a city which becomes a character in the novel in its own right.