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review 2016-07-01 14:54
The Waters of Eternal Youth (Guido Brunetti) - Donna Leon

Fifteen years ago Manuela Lando-Continui was involved in a tragic accident, almost drowning in a canal. Left with life changing brain damage, she is left to go old with the mind of a young child. In the present day Manuela’s grandmother appeals to Brunetti to look into the incident, convinced that due to Manuela’s intense fear of water that she would have been nowhere near the canal. Sceptical at first Brunetti looks into the case, discovering a dark secret, and someone willing to murder to keep it buried.


It is always a pleasure to revisit Venice and Commisario Brunetti. It is one of the highlights on my reading landscape and one that tends to rarely fail to entertain and delight me. The Waters of Eternal Youth didn’t fail in either regard.


It is sometimes the case that in Donna Leon’s books the crime that purportedly drives the story often takes a back seat the characters and their tales. In this instance the crime and events that follow form an integral part of the tale and the characters are placed in the shadows somewhat. That isn’t to say that the story is lacking in character, far from it. All the central players are there, Brunetti and his family, Vianello and Claudia Griffoni and of course the incomparable Signorina Elettra, whose one-upmanship against the conniving Lieutenant Scarpa brings welcome light relief. The most effecting character is Manuela, who’s life now is one of perpetual childhood, aging as normal physically but with the mind and spirit of  a young child, the result of an incident that appeared on the surface to be a tragic accident.


The story pulls together well, despite the fact the that initial catalyst occurs off page and sometime in the past. The clues are well laid out, perhaps a little too well laid as I had worked out who the culprit was about half way through the book. During the course of the series there have been some novels where the ending is not clear cut, sometimes Brunetti is frustrated by the legal and political system and the retribution of the perpetrators is sometimes out of reach. In this novel however that is not the case and the ending sees Brunetti’s skills played out perfectly.


As with many of her novels, Donna Leon allows Brunetti to voice concerns about the state of Italy, of its politics, corruption, position in regards to Europe and immigration and of course, the effects of tourists on the housing market and the Venice of his youth.


There is something like comfort to be found within the pages of a novel that features characters a reader has seen mature and develop over a number of years. It is the comfort of the familiar, of the feeling of almost returning to old friends, and it is this feel that is apparent in this book and makes it all the more enjoyable to read.


As ever, I impatiently wait for my next visit to Venice and Brunetti.

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review 2015-12-11 17:17
Suffer the Little Children (Brunetti #16) - Donna Leon
Suffer the Little Children (Guido Brunetti Series #16) - Donna Leon,David Colacci

Interesting topic of discussion. Illegal adoptions, people who want to be parents buy children from people who don't want them. What happens after they're busted? Where do the kids go? Their birth parents don't want them back, a foster home is most likely their destiny. Sometimes, "the right thing" is not the right thing at all.

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review 2015-08-05 15:56
So, a funny thing...
Death at La Fenice - Donna Leon,Richard Morant

…it turns out I've read this book before. I figured that out from a single detail—the only detail I remembered because it was so Italian—and continued listening to the book like it was my first time reading it.


Unmemorable as it was, it was also a decent book. Nothing spectacular but neither anything truly terrible, except for a few chosen plot threads and the ending. Intolerance of homosexuality is a thing that still happens, in Italy too, but the author makes it unnecessarily salacious. Even if this book was written and published almost a quarter century ago.


Then there's the ending. Last time, I assume I liked it, but this time I cannot. What Brunetti's silence reaffirms effectively robs a someone their voice and chance to heal.




The narrator, Richard Morant, was competent but made me question whether all British narrators are taught the exact same accents and whether or not he understands what "without an accent" means.


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review 2014-01-17 15:48
"The Golden Egg", by Donna Leon
The Golden Egg - Donna Leon

Book 22, in the Commissario Brunetti series

First I admit being a huge fan of this series but after reading this latest I am really not sure what to make out of it. “The Golden Egg” unfolds in such a languorous manner and keeps the same slow pace throughout I felt I had taken a sleeping pill and waiting for the knockout (ouch). IMO it is too quiet with very little drama, definitely not MS. Leon’s standard, it seemed as if the penmanship may have come from a different stroke…..or strongly influenced by the works of the Queen of Crime….very predictable, always the same old beat….

This detective story centers on the life and death of a young man who was never heard to speak and never existed, a man with no identity. As Brunetti tries to find out the basics about him, he takes to the streets and canals of Venice for answers. He probes various people and faces the political mire and hopeless Italian bureaucracy along the way. His sharp-tongued wife Paula and the children play a prominent part that provides a bit of flavour to this mystery.

This series has never been action packed but this one is more ponderous than many of the previous novels. Brunetti is a thoughtful man, not given to hasty decisions or dramatic gestures and his language is overly correct…..he is definitely not the typical detective found these days. 

After 22 books it may be time to put Guido Brunetti and Paulo and the rest of the cast to pasture.

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review 2013-11-14 00:00
The Golden Egg (Commissario Guido Brunetti)
The Golden Egg - Donna Leon The Venice-based Brunetti mysteries feature well-dressed Italian people, delicious food, frequent coffee and wine breaks, and a polite and philosophical detective married to a fiery liberal literature professor who happens to be the daughter of a rich conte and contessa.

The minor complaint I have is that there is a focus on social issues -- for example, previous books dealt with illegal immigration, the environment, the meat industry, child prostitution, etc. -- that occasionally is presented in a heavy-handed, Very Special Episode sort of way. These issues are exacerbated or caused by what appears to be the most frustratingly abysmal bureaucracy on earth -- the Italian government.

This book avoids all that for the most part and is, in a manner of speaking, more of a straightforward mystery whose motif is Words, Glorious Words. What would become of us if we were stripped of the inability to either speak or understand words? To what extent does our very existence depend on our ability to communicate with others and to form relationships? Brunetti and Co. are about to find out, or at least muse about it for awhile, preferably over a bottle of wine.

As usual, Brunetti is contemplative, serious, and slightly wistful, but luckily, there are the awesome Signorina Elettra and Paola to bail him out whenever he veers to far into melancholic angst.
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