New novels from Donna Leon & Laurie R. King
Masterful Women of Mystery
When I think of Venice I think of Donna Leon – as do the legions of readers of her Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery novels. Death at La Fenice published in 1992 begins the series, and Donna Leon has written a book a year since then.
The Waters of Eternal Youth is the most recent, the 25th in the series, and is Donna Leon at her best. We find Brunetti at a good place in his life, happy marriage, kids doing well, and work not too distressing at the moment.
When Brunetti is asked by an elderly friend of the family to look into an old case he does not hesitate, though he does not expect to discover anything that was not known before. He expects to be able to tell a grandmother that her granddaughter’s injury 15 years earlier was truly an accident. But there is something about the case – especially for his colleague, Claudia Griffoni. The victim is a woman of about her own age, but with the mental capabilities of a child because of a near drowning that almost took her life.
As always we walk the calles of Venice with Brunetti, we take a glass of white wine in one Campo, and perhaps pick up flowers in another. We take the vaporetto if the distance is too great to walk, or if we are in a rush to get home for lunch. In fact, Brunetti has become a bit of a tourist attraction with some readers following his footsteps through the city. There is both a cookbook and a guidebook based on the itinerary of Brunetti’s life.
Though Donna Leon has lived in Venice for 30 years, in order to avoid becoming a “celebrity” in her chosen country, she has not allowed her books to be translated into Italian. But, for those of us who have the privilege of reading her books in English her mystery novels are a pleasure to read for the taste of Venice they provide, apart from the actual mystery involved.
Another long running mystery series is one by Laurie R. King that features Sherlock Holmes and his partner Mary Russell. Beginning with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice in 1994, we now have the 14th in this series, The Murder of Mary Russell. A shocking title!
Would Laurie R. King really kill off her heroine? Well, somehow I’m going to have to write about The Murder of Mary Russell without answering that question.
If you’ve been reading this series from the beginning you will be familiar with Holmes’ housekeeper the stalwart Mrs. Hudson. But what did we ever really know about her? Not much. She is always there looking after Holmes and Mary Russell, essential to their comfort and the running of their household.
In this novel we discover the past life of Mrs. Hudson – and it is quite the past. Her story involves a father who was transported to Australia, and her own very surprising activities in the years before she met Sherlock Holmes.
The Murder of Mary Russell is at once a new and very suspenseful story featuring Holmes and Mary Russell, and also a very clever sequel to a Sherlock Holmes story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, the Adventure of the Gloria Scott. Don’t read the story before you read Laurie R. King’s novel, save it for afterwards and you’ll marvel at how she has woven her magic to create a new novel from this story.
The Murder of Mary Russell is a book you’ll not want to put down.