If you've never read a Donna Leon book before, you're in for a treat! This is a great story; it had diverse characters, multiple plots (which may or may not ping on the central plot), title has several literal meanings, and sometimes crimes may not get solved. All of this leads to a fast-paced read. As for the culture, there are many layers in a culture, this one is no different. You will feel like you're peeling layers of an onion to get to the bottom of things. The plot was descriptive and realistic (sometimes crimes don't get solved). The reader will get a sense of how bureacratic things are in Italy.
As for the detractors there was only one minor complaint: there was too much jargon (Italian words), which were not necessarily explained in English. Sometimes Leon will spell it out for you and sometimes not, good luck with that. As for deciding if they're necessary, it does help aid in tasting the flavor of Italy. Other than this minor issue, this book was well written and a change of pace from other styles.
The winner of the Crime Writers Association Macallan Silver Dagger—available for the first time in the United States
Donna Leon's sophisticated Commissario Brunetti series has won her legions of fans over the years. In Friends in High Places, Brunetti is visited by a young bureaucrat investigating the lack of official approval for the building of Brunetti's apartment years before. What began as a red tape headache ends in murder when the bureaucrat is found dead after a mysterious fall from a scaffold. Brunetti starts an investigation that will take him into unfamiliar and dangerous areas of Venetian life, and will reveal, once again, what a difference it makes to have friends in high places.