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Brava! Donna Leon.

Brava! Donna Leon

The publication of Drawing Conclusions this spring, the 20th Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery novel, is cause for celebration for Donna Leon’s many fans. Brunetti shows no signs of early retirement, and I think we can expect to meet him again in more novels yet to come.

American born Donna Leon makes her home in Venice and has readers in countries around the world. With the publication of Drawing Conclusions this spring I realized I’d not yet read the previous novel, A Question of Belief, so I had the pleasure of catching up, and reading the two novels one after the other.

August in Venice – I can’t think of anything worse. Well, of course I can – but I can’t imagine going to Venice in August – the heat, the tourists. Poor Guido Brunetti feels the same, but Venice is his home and where he works. As he makes his way to work, his shirt stuck to his back, he dreams of the holiday he will take with his family in just a few days – not to a beach, but to the mountains – to fresh cool air, where they will walk and read and eat and enjoy being together. And off they go by train – but Guido has not even stepped off the train when he is called back to Venice by a brutal crime. A minor civil servant, Araldo Fontana, has been murdered. Was it because he perhaps knew about corruption involving a judge – was it because he may have been homosexual and the murder is the result of a “date” gone wrong? There appears to be no reason, as Brunetti, and his colleague, Inspector Lorenzo Vianello, investigate. Vianello, meanwhile, is worried about his aunt, a usually sensible woman, who seems to be giving money to what is likely to be a group of crooks preying on the elderly.

Both A Question of Belief and Drawing Conclusions find Brunetti mired in the corruption of the city, the state, and almost everyone he must deal with as he investigates. In the novel Drawing Conclusions the investigation involves the death of a woman found in her home, dying from an apparent heart attack. But something about the death bothers Brunetti and he looks for evidence of violence, and delves into the life of this woman. What he finds is corruption – but does it have anything to do with this death?

This sort of endemic corruption in a society makes it easy to find information, but makes it very difficult to actually bring anyone to justice. Often justice finds it’s own way – and those who might deserve to be arrested, tried in a court of law, and convicted, are somehow punished in other ways. Divine justice, perhaps. How Brunetti is able to do his job in this culture of corruption is a wonder, helped by his knowing that he is a very lucky man. As he sits at the table with his family, he knows he is lucky to love, and be loved, by his wife of more than twenty years, and that his children are well – and he reflects that he may work among people who know tragedy and grief but it has never touched his own life.

So, Brava, Donna Leon, thanks for giving us Guido Brunetti, and keep him well.

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