Fresh from finishing university in England, Adam Woods arrives in Venice to begin a new chapter in his life. He soon secures employment as the personal assistant of Gordon Crace -- a famous expatriate novelist who makes his home in a dank and crumbling palazzo, surrounded by fabulous works of art, piles of unanswered correspondence and the memories of his former literary glory. Before long Adam becomes indispensable to the feeble Crace, and he finds himself at once drawn to and repelled by his elderly employer's brilliant mind and eccentric habits. As Adam comes to learn more about the scandal that brought Crace to Venice years ago, he realizes he has stumbled upon the raw material that could launch his own literary career and makes a bold decision: He will secretly write the famous author's biography. But outsmarting Crace is easier said than done, and the two soon find themselves locked in a bitter contest over the right to determine how the story of Crace's life will end. Against the haunting backdrop of the serene city, the two men engage in a ruthless game of cat and mouse that builds to a breathtaking and unexpected conclusion.