Archive for October 17, 2011

DRAWING CONCLUSIONS: DONNA LEON

Posted: October 17, 2011 in Italy

Anna Maria Giusti returns home from a disappointing visit to the alien world of Palermo and finds her elderly neighbour Constanza Altavilla dead. Anna Maria had gone to collect a registered letter that Constanza had signed for and found her lying on the floor with blood near her head. Because of the blood Guido Brunetti, Commissario di Polizia of the city of Venice is called, but it seems the woman had suffered a fatal heart attack. This is confirmed by the taciturn pathologist Rizzardi, who mentions certain suspicious marks on the body. Brunetti becomes curious and begins an investigation into Signora Altavilla’s life, her involvement with an organization that helped battered women, and her voluntary work in a nearby nursing home. There is an unexpected twist and turn in the investigation, and Brunetti seems to express doubts as to both some of  Signorina Elettra’s methods, and the functioning of Italian state. 

‘But he’s a man with no education, with a long criminal record, a known thief,’ Vianello said, making no attempt to disguise his astonishment.

‘You could be describing many of the men in Parliament,’ Brunetti said in return, intending it as a joke but then suddenly oppressed by the truth of it.

Drawing Conclusions in the 20th in the Commissario Brunetti series and while it is not one of the best novels in the series it is a pleasantly reassuring read. You  don’t read Donna Leon for fireworks, or extreme action, her books are like a comfortable pair of old slippers stating and restating the problems faced by Italy and Western Europe, and featuring the same cast of characters that you have grown to love or hate over the series. This is not Romanzo Criminale, or a Massimo Carlotto Alligator book, but a quiet gentle, almost meandering, story of basic dishonesty and corruption in a city where it is very  important who you know, or what title your father in law holds. Donna Leon gives us a chilling portrait  of Venice behind the splendid facade where even the good guys have to bend, or even break the rules to function. But the story’s emotions are not all negative with love, loyalty, and remorse also featuring. And Donna Leon is prepared to give us a little controversy. 

‘But why we’re giving money to places like India and China is something I don’t understand. Can’t pick up  a newspaper without reading how powerful they are economically, how the world is going to belong to them in a decade. Or two. So what are we doing, supporting their children?’ Then Vianello added , ‘At least that’s what I ask myself?’

This is definitely a series I will continue to read, not only because the books are enjoyable, well written, and not too taxing, but because those cameo appearances by Paola Brunetti make my day. 😉

Read another review of Drawing Conclusions by Maxine of Petrona at Euro Crime