Saturday, February 27, 2016

Donna Leon and Guido Brunetti

Through Donna Leon's mysteries, the principled Venetian detective Commissario Guido Brunetti soldiers on at the Questura in an atmosphere of indifference, inefficiency and corruption.

About Face (Grove Atlantic, image left) was a chance discovery. In that remarkable work, I love how the author plays on readers' judgments about manufactured female beauty even as she unspools an intricately constructed police procedural. The sensual descriptions of Venice make the city function as a character.

Quite taken by Guido, his family, and his lieutenant, Ispettore Vianello, I wanted to know more. Had the talented Leon written other Brunetti novels? Happily, she had. Twenty-four of them.

Today I finished A Question of Belief, my sixth Leon this month. They just keep getting better. I particularly enjoy savouring the linguistic gems and ironic zingers.

In one scene, the detective is about to interview a bank manager who is a murder suspect. "Brunetti fought down the impulse to growl and wave his hands in their faces, but then remembered that, in the land where money was god, policemen were not meant to enter the places of worship."

Donna Leon, an American academic, began her love affair with Italy in 1965. She lived and worked in Iran, China and Saudi Arabia before settling in Venice over two decades ago. I suspect that Guido's beautifully drawn wife Paola, who teaches at the university, shares a lot with her creator.

The Brunetti mysteries have been made into a German TV series.

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