Commissario Guido Brunetti is in an uncharacteristically sullen mood as we encounter him in the opening pages of the thirtieth installment of Donna Leon’s award-winning series. Is it because he laments the trajectory of his life, based on last night’s meeting with old friends? Perhaps he’s reached the tipping point with his children who take him so much for granted? Or is it the endless line of tourists who seek to swallow up everything good about the city he loves? Whatever the cause it foreshadows the horrendous events that are about to consume most of his time and energy.
Two women, with multiple injuries, are found unconscious on the dock outside the emergency room of the Ospedale Civile early in the morning. It’s determined that their injuries are the result of a boating accident while they were joy riding with two young Italian men. But why abandon them when it was just an accident?
As Brunetti and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, continue their investigation they encounter the very darkest side of criminal behaviour and the most heinous of crimes.
As I was reading Leon’s latest Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery I began to think that she’d taken a departure from her usual format. The story was interesting – Count Falier, Brunetti’s father-in-law, asks him to investigate his wealthy, elderly friend Gonzalo Rodriguez de Tejada who has recently put a plan in place to adopt a much younger man as his son. And as the particulars of Gonzalo’s plan unfold, along with the resistance to the adoption by his friends, Gonzalo abruptly drops dead on the street. So – a death – but one that is easily explained.
It isn’t until page 169 that we are faced with a murder. As Louise Penny stated in an interview on CBC Radio’s “Q” in 2017: “Murder is the beginning, not the end of the story”. It is at this point that the author explores human nature and the “real” story comes out. Leon is certainly on board with this premise and beautifully peels away the layers of this story to get to the core and ultimately, to the truth.
Masterfully written, with fully-fleshed characters and a setting that begs one to purchase an airline ticket to Venice (if only to eat one of Paolo’s glorious meals), this novel ticks all the boxes as a terrific read.