It is Venice 1918... Revel Callender has taken a sabbatical year abroad as a brief escape
from his law practice in London. The family gives him an ancient lineage with a tumbledown
castle, Damson Castle, but the family has no money. He will have to make a successful
career for himself. He has had an interest in art since boyhood and spends the year
visiting the museums and art treasures and perhaps trying art for himself. He supplements
his money by giving advice to English travelers. One of his clients, Clementine Marshall,
is on tour of Italy with her companion. Clementine is smitten with a dashing Venetian
"nobleman" who stole her jewelry.
British consul, Theseus Barton, on behalf of the British government requests Callender to
look into the financial records of the Principessa Casimiri, married to Count Roberto.
She is a member of the wealthy British Maloney banking family. She is a hermaphrodite
hidden away from the family. When Callender arrives at the Palazzi Casimiri he finds the
Principessa has died. The Count asks him to look through her papers. Before Callender makes
much progress the Count dies under very bizarre circumstances and the family cancels his
work. The atmosphere of the Palazzi is a sinister one and Calllender fears for the safety
of young Clara Casimiri with whom he has become attracted.
In the meantime artist Claude Monet has requested Callender"s services to look into the
investigation of the murder in Paris of Monet's brother-in-law, Auguste who was stabbed
fifteen times. Monet and his wife, Alice, have fled to Venice to escape the trial of the
murderers. Callender's search into the facts of the case leads him to believe that the two
servants arrested and being tried for the murder are innocent and that the murderer is
one of the family.
He finds a close parallel between the murder of the Count and a little known play, The
Cenci, by English poet Shelley. The play is set in 16th century Italy and the plot
closely resembles the current murder of the Count.
The plot is a complex one, with two themes, separate but connected. It is a tale of
incest and torture, filled with a number of unlikable characters. The contrast between
the atmospheres of Venice and London is remarkable: the light, sun and warmth of Venice
versus the dark and cold of London. The conflict between the decadent world of the old
Venetian aristocracy as represented by the Casimiri and the new world of a united Italy
as represented by young Dr. Albrizzi is well presented. The struggle of Monet to protect
his wife, Alice, from her debilitating illness and to capture the beauty, light and color
of Venice is in his paintings before he loses his eyesight is a powerful one.