Two young women, tourists in Venice, are found severely wounded in front of a hospital one late night. Luckily, with the help of video surveillance they can quickly find out the two men who put them there. But which did they abandon them even though they first provided help? As commissario Brunetti investigates the case together with his colleague Claudia Griffoni, they happen to link one of the men to another crime of which the police only have a faint idea so far, but this might be their breakthrough.
Whenever I take up a Donna Leon novel on commissario Brunetti, I know what I will get: a crime story which is solved not by some miraculously appearing deus ex machina, but by meticulous police work combined with the protagonist’s clever instinct and the ability to read people and to actually listen to them. Apart from that, it is always like some kind of bookish holiday to travel to the Venetian Lagoon and to delve into its very unique atmosphere. The thirtieth instalment in the series does not disappoint in this respect.
Quite interestingly, the crime with which the novel opens is quite quickly solved and classified an accident and a series of unfortunate events and decisions. Yet, it is only the beginning of a real crime – a crime of the sort nobody wants to know about and people eagerly close their eyes on. This time, it is Brunetti’s colleague who stirs the investigation and the commissario not only gets to know her from an unknown side but also learns that Griffoni’s hometown of Naples could also be on another planet that different life works there.
A plot driven by interesting and strongly painted characters, just the sort of entertainment one knows Donna Leon to provide.
Guido Brunetti is surprised when is father-in-law Count Falier asks him to meet him privately. The Count’s best friend is going to make a big mistake and he hopes that Guido could do something about it: the Spaniard Gonzalo Rodriguez de Tejada wants to adopt a much younger man. Even though nobody really is upset about his openly shown homosexuality, this seems to go too far for the upper society and is considered something absolutely inappropriate. But apart from that, Gonzalo’s friends fear that the chosen man, Attilio Circetti, Marchese di Torrebardo, is more interested in Gonzalo’s wealth than in the old man. When Gonzalo suddenly dies, the case isn’t abandoned but turns out to be much more complicated than expected.
Donna Leon’s 28th case for Commissario Guido Brunetti starts in a quite unique way since this time, no murder has been committed and Brunetti is not running after some evil criminal. It is a very personal story that reveals a lot about Venice’s society, especially the rich and noble and their very special views on the world. The actual murder case only appears after about two thirds of the novel which surprisingly does not reduce any suspense in it.
As the other novels before, the Guido Brunetti series lives on the special atmosphere of the Italian water city. Again, we get a glance behind the doors of the nobilità and how they resolve their cases. Brunetti’s has to do a lot of actually illegal work this time which does not seem to bother anybody too much. On the other hand, this is a very emotional and human story, it is the characters’ weaknesses, their longing for finding love and being loved that drives the story. It is much less about solving a crime than about revealing human nature and the core things of life. For me, definitely so far the strongest of Donna Leon’s novels since it goes far beyond just solving a murder case.
While interrogating a suspect, one of Commissario Brunetti’s colleagues is on the verge of attacking the interviewee. Brunetti has to interfere and fakes a heart attack. He finds himself in hospital before he can explain what has happened. Albeit the doctor does not find any sign of heart attack, she nevertheless advocates for some time off for the commissario to recover from work. One of Paola’s aunts happens to possess a villa in Sant’Erasmo, one of the largest island in the laguna and so Brunetti sets out for some holidays without his family. He spends his days with the housekeeper Davide Casati with whom he likes to row through the laguna. Yet, after a stormy night, Casati does not return and to Brunetti’s sorrow, they find the elderly man drowned. Even though everything points at an accident, Brunetti knows that Casati has been preoccupied and wanted to tell him something he had been researching for months. So Brunetti starts to ask questions that were not meant to be asked.
Donna Leon’s 26th novel in the Brunetti series brings us again into Venice laguna with sympathetic Commissario Brunetti. What I like about these crime novels is the fact that they put the human being into the focus. We do not have the brutal, lurid murder cases, but everyday men and women who act in accordance with their beliefs and convictions and sometimes commit crimes without being thoroughly evil.
This novel is especially slow in pace and thus mirrors quite well the hot Italian summers. After a third of it, still everybody is alive and kicking and I already started to wonder if it could do without any murder at all. Well then of course we have a dead and some suspicion which actually leads to a case. Starting from only small points, the story extends in concentric circles linking the hints and in this way forming a complete picture of a convincing and logic series of events. The characters’ motivation of realistic and comprehensible. Yet, at the very end, Brunetti could surprise me a lot – even though his acted in quite an unexpected way, this was consistent with his personality.
All in all, the perfect crime novel for a hot afternoon.