The open-faced innocence of Anna Field’s voice offers up a ripe acoustical image of a woman artist in New York: Faith Crowl. Faith is commissioned by an old and wealthy New York City socialite to paint the ballroom of her storied mansion in trompe l’oeil. Faith accepts, reluctantly, after a heavy dose of gossip by her gay friend, Harry. As Faith paints the ballroom, the old woman becomes curiouser and curiouser. Her personality is baroque, gargoyle-like, impenetrable, suspect. Faith suspects. She looks for the truth behind the old woman’s past and finds that the woman is herself a work of art, an illusion.
Venice is an old small town of old small sins. The Venice, that is, of Commissario Guido Brunetti, who may want no more of life than to read Xenophon and wait for his wife to come home from the Rialto with soft shell crabs. It is a Venice of officials, of officialism, and of greed. For Venetians learned very early to acquire, and to hoard.
There are many different kinds of greed. Consider, for example, the beautiful, intellectual greed of Paola, Guido’s wife of more than 20 years, who for a period of more than a month deserted her husband and family…
…in order to systematically read her way through, at his count, eighteen sea novels dealing with the unending years of war between the British and the French.
Or the greed of the tourists who pack the Rialto.
Why do they go to Rialto? Don’t they have markets where they come from? Don’t they sell food?
And then there is the greed of an emotional, protected, inefficient, aging political system and the customary ways it has worked itself into the persons and personalities of a Venetian type.