Earthly Remains by Donna Leon
The Dark Underside of the Beautiful City of Venice
Flying into Venice your eye is drawn to the city itself, spread out along the Grand Canal. Landing at the airport on an island some distance from the city the water taxi into Venice is a trip full of excited anticipation for anyone approaching this fabulous place.
Arriving by train is a completely different experience as you speed through an industrial wasteland, arriving at a noisy station in one of the less lovely sections of the city. Walk a block or two and you can stand on the Fondement Nove, look out over the canal, seeing the mountains on a clear day. Walk along the outside of the island before turning into one of the little calles and finding your hotel or B & B.
You might walk by the Ospedale Ss Giovanni e Paolo. And if you’ve just read a mystery novel by Donna Leon you’ll think of Rizzardi working in the morgue. Another day walking up and over the Rialto Bridge you’ll see the Questura and know that Commissario Guido Brunetti may be at his desk. Or he may be the dashing man you see hopping on to a vaporetto or into the traghetto as a short cut home for lunch.
So, lucky us, there are 2 new books from Donna Leon this spring. The Waters of Eternal Youth, published just over a year ago is now in paperback. This book finds Donna Leon back in fine form as she spins a story that involves a family friend and an old case that may merit closer examination. There are as many twists and turns as the canals of Venice but you’ll finish this one feeling very satisfied that it is Donna Leon at her best.
And just a s good, and brand new this week is Earthly Remains. This time we are with Guido on holiday. He’s been advised to take a couple of weeks off and get away from work and worry. The rest of the family are content to stay at home, so Guido goes off to the home of a family friend on the island of Sant’Erasmo. There he meets David Casati who was once a friend of his own father. They rowed together on the lagoon when they were young men, and for Guido rowing with this man now seems a return to his own youth as well. Day after day they row between the islands. Stress and worry drop away.
Sant’Erasmo is not far from Torcello, Burano and Murano. From one side of the island you can see Venice in the distance, from the other Treporti. Treporti with its petroleum factories is the ugly side of Venice. And what happened to David Casati when he was a young man is an ugly story as well. When David disappears one day is it Guido who discovers what has happened now, and in the past. And, of course, the holiday is over.