Istanbul, 1840: the new sultan, Abdulmecid, has heard a rumor that Bellini's vanished masterpiece—a portrait of Mehmed the Conqueror—may have resurfaced in Venice. Yashim, our eunuch detective, is promptly sent to investigate, but—aware that the sultan's advisers are against any extravagant repurchase of the painting—decides to deploy his disempowered Polish ambassador friend, Palewski, to visit Venice in his stead. Palewski arrives in disguise in down-at-the-heel Venice, where a killer is at large, as dealers, faded aristocrats, and other unknown factions seek to uncover the whereabouts of the missing Bellini. But is it the Bellini itself that endangers all or something associated with its original loss? And how is it that all of the killer's victims are somehow tied to the alluring Contessa d'Aspi d'Istria? Will the Austrians unmask Palewski, or will the killer find him first? Only Yashim can uncover the truth to the manifold mysteries.
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