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

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Comments
  1. Norman – Excellent review – thanks :-). I’m going to read this one, too, and probably the next, and the next…As you say, perhaps not every novel in this series is a “firecracker,” but I don’t mind. And how else will I keep up with Paola Brunetti’s doings ;-)?

  2. Kerrie says:

    Yes, I want to read this one too Norman. I have it somewhere….

  3. kathy d. says:

    Whatever else this book is, it is a love story. Aspects of the plot lead Guido Brunetti to think about his family and his happiness at the idea of growing older with his spouse, Paola Brunetti..

    I’m not sure I’d agree with Donna Leon about India though. Lots of articles coming through about how only a small percent of the population there is benefitting from globalization, foreign investments, outsourcing from the wealthier Western countries, economic development.

  4. Norman says:

    Thanks Margot and Kerrie.

    Kathy, I agree as I remember visiting the USA in 1979 and 1980 when everyone was complaining that the Japanese would take over as the world’s number one economy. One block of Tokyo’s business district was worth more than California, and the Nikkei was at 46,000. It was all nonsense of course, and similarly the vast majority of India and China’s population live in abject poverty compared with even the poorest people in the UK or USA.
    China’s economic growth is indeed fantastic [starting from a low level], but then so was Ireland’s when she was classified as the Celtic Tiger! It was only a few years ago that Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond called for independence and spoke of his country achieving the success of other small rich countries like Ireland and Iceland!!!

  5. Maxine says:

    Lovely review, Norman (and thanks for the link!). I did enjoy this but also feel the series has become rather tired – I wish she’d advance some of the long-running elements a bit, eg S. Elletra always seems to have the same role. But, like Ruth Rendell, one has to admire someone who has kept a series going for so long, and so infused with social/political comment (even though occasionally a little heavy-handed in the case of both authors….but their hearts are in the right place).

  6. Norman says:

    Thanks Maxine I should have said that you gave me the book, sorry, but i have been very distracted recently.

  7. kathy d. says:

    I would love to see a book or two featuring Signorina Elettra or Guido Brunetti’s team member Vianello, who has become a more interesting character as the series developed.

    I could indulge myself in a Venetian vacation by reading several of these books again. I do think a bit more energy is needed, but then again Guido was thinking of his future life growing older with Paola, so aging is on his mind.

    If he went on a crazed middle-aged crisis like Montalbano, and acted out like the Sicilian policeman, then we loyal readers would be up in arms and angry about his behavior. His reputation as a loyal, hard-working family man and provider would be ruined.

    So how can Donna Leon spice up the series without leading Guido astray?

    Maybe writing about one of these other characters would help. Maybe another book with more about Paola, or Raffi or Chiara. (Gosh, these are akin to family members to me after 20 books.)

  8. Norman says:

    Kathy, I wouldn’t mind Donna Leon concentrating a bit on the rest of the cast, but I do like the reliability of the formula. If the series is going to be spiced up I think it would need to feature Signorina Elettra a bit more, because I don’t want the solid Guido, Paola, Raffi, Chiara relationship to be altered in any way. This is catching, I am writing as if they are family. 😉

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