The book of human skin is a large volume with many pages of villainy writ upon it. There are people who are a disease, you know. 13 May, 1784, Venice: Minguillo Fasan, heir to the decaying, gothic Palazzo Espagnol, is born. Yet Minguillo is no ordinary child: he is strange, devious and all those who come near him are fearful. Twelve years later Minguillo is faced with an unexpected threat to his inheritance: a newborn sister, Marcella. His untempered jealousy will condemn his sister to a series of fates as a cripple, a madwoman and a nun. But in his insatiable quest to destroy her, he may have underestimated his sister's ferocious determination, and her unlikely allies who will go to extraordinary lengths to save her...