It's a shame that A Noble Radiance is cast as a mystery. Take the need to solve the mystery out, and this would be an above-average novel about contemporary families in Venice.
Ms. Leon takes a long time to set up the mystery. Then, she has the investigation proceed very slowly as well. That would be fine if the resolution was interesting, unexpected, and credible. But to me, the resolution was nonsense: It just didn't ring true.
With much of the story taking place outside of Venice, there's not as much of the local color as usual. The best parts of the story relate to Guido Brunetti's father-in-law warning him about Guido's marriage to Paola, eating Chira's first dinner she's cooked for the family, and exploring Signorina Elletra's seemingly contradictory morals about getting secret information and making public investments.
Here's the set-up: A house and garden have fallen into ruin because the heirs are squabbling until a German buys the place for a huge sum and starts fixing it up. While the garden is being tilled, a bone sticks up that turns out to be human. As the police dig around, they also find a ring with the crest of a noble Venetian family, the Lorenzoni family, best known in recent times for having sold out the location of Venice's Jews to the SS during World War II. The family's son had been kidnapped two years earlier, and he was never found. When the autopsy shows a bullet hole in the skull of a young man, Commissario Guido Brunetti looks for a dental match. Finding one, he now has reason to dig into the kidnapping, looking for murderers.
The Lorenzonis have taken on their lost son's cousin as their heir. Was he involved? Why else had a motive?
As you finish this book, think about what the purpose of a family should be.