In Venice, 1756, the city is at the height of its prodigious power. But as the madness of Carnival descends, a dark force stalks the gothic shadows. The body of one of Venice’s brightest actors has been discovered: crucified, lines of verse carved into his chest. And it is not an isolated killing. For the murderer, known only as Chimera, is determined to people the nine circles of Dante’s Inferno with the traitorous, the depraved, and the gluttonous. Only by releasing the Black Orchid—childhood friend of Casanova, rake, gambler, lover, spy, and soon-to-be detective—a man condemned to death for adultery, can the doge of Venice hope to put an end to the grotesque killings. The Black Orchid soon finds himself ensnared in a terrible game of cat and mouse. As the streets of Venice fill with masked Carnivalgoers, and as the Orchid’s old enemies—and old lovers—return to haunt him, he is drawn further into the Inferno, to the heart of a secret sect and a plot to bring about the downfall of Venice.