7 April 2008


publisher: Random House - April 2008, Australia May 2008
ISBN: 978-0-4340-1803-1
276 pages
Author website: http://www.donnaleon.co.uk/

A spring day brings with it the funeral of Guido Brunetti's mother and a rare gathering of Brunetti relatives at his brother Sergio's house. The funeral is conducted by Father Antonin, a school friend of Sergio’s. Antonin has been working in the Congo, and returned home to Venice under a cloud. He comes to alert Brunetti that a bogus religious movement is swindling people out of their money. Despite the fact that Brunetti is not religious, he decides to attend one of the meetings to see for himself how the scam works.

Vice Questore Patta has been away at a conference in Berlin, and returns full of the zeal of networking, plus some European funding to make their policing methods more sensitive to inter-cultural dynamics, whatever that may be. The validity of this approach is tested when Brunetti and Vianello pull the body of a young girl from the Grand Canal. Twenty four hours later the girl has not been reported as missing. The post mortem seems to indicate that she has accidentally drowned, but a watch and a ring on her body make it likely she was a thief.

Family means a lot to Guido Brunetti, and Donna Leon has the knack of sharing his feelings with us. His own concern with his family, both his memories of his mother, and then also the way he feels about his wife and children, makes it even harder for him to understand why no-one has reported the drowned girl missing. Guido is also interested in the social glue that holds Venetian society together. Religion has been replaced by wealth, or the lack of it. He has a nose for the corrupt and unhealthy, and he reflects on the sort of world his children will inherit.

This is the 17th title in the Guido Brunetti series. Donna Leon has produced a book a year since 1992, constantly enriching his Venetian world with believable characters, and focussing on the issues that beset modern Venice. She gives us a glimpse beneath the tourist veneer, and reading the next is always a pleasure.

Donna Leon has lived in Venice for over 25 years. Her 9th novel, FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES, won the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction. There are many sites that will give further biographical insights. Try http://www.booksfactory.com/writers/leon.htm

My rating: 4.7

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