16 October 2009

Don't Always Hit the Mark #3

The general idea behind this regular feature on my blog is that even the best authors, or your favourite ones, don't always achieve the same rating with the reader. In previous posts I looked at how I have rated novels by Agatha Christie, and Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine.

My general benchmarks are
    5.0 Excellent
    4.0 Very Good
    3.0 Average
    2.0 Poor
    1.0 Did Not Like
    0 Did Not Finish
This week I'm considering another author whose new book I always look forward to: Donna Leon.

I have a couple of reviews on my blog, but many more books listed in my database.
Mini reviews of titles not actually reviewed in a full post are here.

My ratings in descending order:
  1. BLOOD FROM A STONE (2005), my rating 4.8
  2. DOCTORED EVIDENCE (2005), my rating 4.8
  3. THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY (2006), my rating 4.8
  4. SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN (2007), my rating 4.8
  5. THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS (2008), my rating 4.7
  6. A VENETIAN RECKONING (1996), my rating 4.6
  7. FATAL REMEDIES (1999), my rating 4.6
  8. THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN (1994), my rating 4.6
  9. ABOUT FACE (2009), my rating 4.4
There are gaps in this list, but that is probably due to the fact that my database begins only at the end of 2004 rather than that I haven't read them. ABOUT FACE is #18 in the series, and I actually think I have probably read about 16 of them over the years. In my review of ABOUT FACE I tackle the issue of whether you need to read them in order.

You'll see that my average rating is about 4.7, and that I didn't enjoy the last one as much as I have others. But all the ratings show that I generally do rate Donna Leon very highly, almost always close to Excellent. Why?

I listed Donna Leon as one of my favourite authors very early in my blog.
They strike a chord with me partly because I have been to Venice several times and love the city. I also love the way Leon weaves a crime fiction story against a background of modern Venice and it's problems such as political corruption, illegal immigration, the rising waters, the challenges to traditional industries, and industrial pollution.
I have enjoyed also the development of the characters, and visiting with her protagonist Guido Brunetti is like renewing an old friendship.

Which of the Leon novels sticks in your mind as the best?

3 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

I agree completely that part of the appeal of Leon's books is that she deals with underlying issues like discrimination, the environment and the like. I haven't read as much of her work as you have, but I already consider Comissario Brunetti a friend and I look forward to spending more time with him : ).

Uriah Robinson said...

I really enjoyed Friends in High Places in which from memory Brunetti finds out his entire apartment is illegal.
They are very good and I love the characters especially Paola and Signorina Elektra oops I have been warned by Bernadette no drooling. Seriously the warm relationship between Guidio and Paola is such a rarity in crime fiction it is like a breath of fresh air.

Philip said...

Margot is right -- returning to our most favoured detectives, especially when they live in parts we particularly like to visit, has about it much of visiting with friends. Leon has been on my A+ list since I started to read her novels, beginning with the first. I always embark on series with the first published when possible, though a number of factors, from library holdings to the oddities of publication in translation, may work against doing so. Even when the 'series' is not more in the nature of a serial, something becoming rather common lately, e.g. Jo Nesbo, Robert Wilson, it allows one to watch the development of the characters, which in some cases, e.g., Dalziel and Pascoe, is considerable. This very day I shall be collecting About Face, so I rather wish you'd given it more than 4.4, but we shall see. What I do like very much is the high mark you give Suffer the Little Children. I was a trifle miffed over reviews that criticized that entry for being gloomy, less of a mystery than usua,l lacking in humour, almost devoid of gustatory interludes, and thus below par. It was, in fact, all of those things --except the last. In that book, with particularly serious subject matter, Leon took a somewhat different approach, and different does not mean sub-par. We cannot criticize authors simply because they choose not to serve up what we expected or wanted.

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