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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You are a stubborn devil, aren't you?"
Donna Leon definitely caught my attention with the first book in this series, and now she has made me a fan of her wonderful work. Leon's excellence is based on three main concepts: a complex main character, an enchanting environment, and of course a well-crafted mystery. Commissario Guido Brunetti is one of the most interesting detectives I have encountered in quite some...
Published on 23 Sept. 2007 by Sebastian Fernandez

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You are a stubborn devil, aren't you?", 23 Sept. 2007
By 
Sebastian Fernandez (Tampa, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Death In A Strange Country: (Brunetti 2) (Paperback)
Donna Leon definitely caught my attention with the first book in this series, and now she has made me a fan of her wonderful work. Leon's excellence is based on three main concepts: a complex main character, an enchanting environment, and of course a well-crafted mystery. Commissario Guido Brunetti is one of the most interesting detectives I have encountered in quite some time. His personality and family life make him a character with which we can relate fairly quickly, and his uncompromising attitude towards delivering justice for those that have been wronged is one to admire. Venice is the perfect setting for this character, and allows Leon to use its canals and rich history to add mystique to the plot. And then there is the murder case, which is complex without being contrived, and keeps us interested until we find out the truth.

This novel starts at full speed, catching our interest right away, with a body floating in a canal on a quiet morning. Brunetti is soon placed in charge of the investigation and finds out that the victim is an American and that the killer was either very skilled or very lucky, since death came after a perfect stroke with a blade. When the victim is identified as a Sergeant in an army post in Vicenza, the case becomes much more complicated and Brunetti has to deal with people trying to mislead him and cover up the truth. On top of this, there is a second case, involving a robbery, which adds variety to the story and allows for the introduction of some really colorful characters.

Last time, Leon's work incorporated many aspects related to the world of Opera and classical music, and this time the canals and the way in which their currents work take center stage. As happened in the first book of this series, we get to see a fair amount of what transpires in Brunetti's family life. Leon uses the food proficiently to convey how important meals are in the Italian culture, and how this family time results in captivating interactions. We also get to witness situations in which the culture plays an important role, like fights within the police department with the subsequent grudges, or higher-ups in the department sucking up to powerful people.

I believe that there is not much more to say. This novel is definitely a winner and I recommend it without reservations! I am already looking forward to reading the next Brunetti mystery.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The body floated face down in the murky water of the canal", 20 April 2008
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Death In A Strange Country: (Brunetti 2) (Paperback)
Thus opens Donna Leon's second Brunetti novel, building diligently on her first. The characters become deeper and the criminal landscape of Venice broader. We learn more about Brunetti's personal and professional life and learn to sympathise more with the impediments placed in his way by friend and foe alike.

I will not give details of the plot, save to say that it is credible and clever. We are kept on tenterhooks until the very last chapter, where the disappointment we had envisaged in the sight of crime not paying its proper dues is suddenly lifted through the act of a heartbroken mother.

My only complaint? The map is quite useless without a magnifying glass.

But I'm entranced enough to already be halfway through the third in the series, "The Anonymous Venetian".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book floating face-up in a murky genre, 29 Jun. 2009
By 
Gs-trentham - See all my reviews
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Impossible to demur from the comments of other reviewers here, except perhaps from Professor Mitchell's revelation of too much of the plot and his down-playing of the dénouement (so strongly felt that he seems to have published it twice).

Donna Leon's books quite simply inhabit Venice. Those of us who know it only superficially find it easy to recognise and by the end feel we understand the city and its customs and hidden corners a little better. If we have never dropped in at that little bar for a coffee and a brioche, we can be sure we will spot it next time and not pass by.

The crime, of course, is intriguing enough to keep the reader turning pages but the pleasure is the setting in which it is wrapped: the place and the people. Above all, the people. Commissario Brunetti has few rivals in detective fiction for the way in which his character emerges through myriad small details. The reader sees him at work and at home, with strengths and weaknesses in both, but they are indivisible halves of the same man. If one were the victim of a crime, one would be fortunate indeed to have Brunetti on the case.

The Commissario alone would guarantee Donna Leon's rightful place among the best of her peers, but there are other subtle virtues not to be overlooked. In passing, Death in a Strange Country airs thoughtful views on immigration, on corruption, and on polution of the planet. And all this with a beautifully understated sense of humour.

At one point, Paola Brunetti makes a risotto for her husband. "He took two forkfuls, sighed in appreciation, and continued to eat ... Paola saw that he had passed beyond the point of hunger and was eating for the pleasure of the act ..." Contemplating the long list of Donna Leon's other titles, one experiences a similar sensation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book one can not put down, 7 Jan. 2010
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I really enjoyed the first book in this series and this one was even better than that one. It was exciting from page 1 to page 373, the very last page.
It starts out with a body of a young, handsome American discovered at an unchristly hour in one of Venezia's canals. At first it is thought that he is a tourist that has been robbed but the stabwound says different and soon they know that he was a soldier from the American Army post in Vicenza. Brunetti runs in to silence wherever he turns. And the reader wonders how on earth this mystery is ever going to get solved. The man's commanding officer, a woman, turns out to have been his lover and soon she is dead as well. That is when Brunetti is finally starting to get some clues and the tale one gets to read is so sinister, so corrupt that one gets scared. US and Italian governments are involved and so is the mafia. It seems like the book is going to end in an unsolved case or rather a hopeless case where one can not get justice and then boom, justice is served. Do we dare to ever set our foot in Italy again???
I must read the next one in the series, the Anonymous Venetian.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the start of something, 10 Sept. 2012
By 
Michael Watson "skirrow22" (Halifax, England) - See all my reviews
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Although this is the second book in the series to feature Inspector Guido Brunetti situated in Venice, it is my first; and I didn't know what I'd let myself into when I swapped this for another book. On the strength of this book alone, it seems I have to read a further 15 or so such novels. That's good! This one, originally published in 1993 doesn't really show its age - perhaps now and again references to events which may seem outdated now but, even so, this is a very accomplished crime thriller.

Venice is beautifully described - again, twenty years ago - and the author captures the essence of both the city and the people so much so that the reader is absorbed into the settings without really noticing the transportation.

As with most 'Inspectors' Brunetti has little time for his superiors and even less time for the Americans presently sequestered (at that time) on their territory where, as most of us know, they establish a base and assume it is then part of America. Unfortunately, since a murder of an American takes place in Venice, Brunetti has to deal with the pesky Americans - and, as more or less is de rigeur in Italy - a very large, in many senses, construction boss quietly dumping stuff which he shouldn't in and around the Italian countryside.

The story works well, there are sidelines which develop of their own accord, just as in real life and they reach a sufficiently rewarding finale. For once, it seems, Brunetti takes the murder of another American as a personal affront and, here too, the outcome is satisfying as best it can be.

I'm a newcomer to Brunetti and his family and, indeed, Venice but I look forward eagerly to following his progress in later books.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and evocative, 18 Nov. 2004
This review is from: Death In A Strange Country: (Brunetti 2) (Paperback)
Some time ago I wrote in a review of an Ian Rankin book that I wasn't really into crime as a genre. Something's happened since then and it's now my regular stress-busting bit of escapism and I have to 'fess up to being a convert to low-life detective novels(when it's good anyway).
Donna Leon is certainly good - Death in a Strange County is the first of her books I've read and there is an enticingly large array of other books by her to move on to. It was a single-evening read and delivered everything it should. Guido (the Venetian policeman) is a good hero - not too macho, not too fey - a palpable person. And Venice - I was there. Leon really manages to evoke the workaday reality of the city. I was unsurprised to find out she lives there as it was every inch the city I know.
Great fun, smooth writing, good characterisation and a plausible plot. Just what you need when the winter evenings are drawing in.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entirely absorbing and well written Venetian thriller., 7 Jun. 2002
By 
M. Fermer (Chesterfield, England) - See all my reviews
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This is another of Donna Leon's wonderful books based in Venice which defy simplistic classification. It is beautifully written, and can be appreciated on several levels. It is concerned with international intrigue tied into Maffiosi corruption, but the private life of her honest policeman is fascinating. For anyone who has any knowledge of, and love for, Venice this book is unmissable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very human detective in Venice, 23 April 2013
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is the second Commissario Brunetti novel from 1993 and it is very interesting to read it after a number of her more recent books. The characters of Brunetti, his wife and family, and his work colleagues are all still in the process of being filled out. In such an early novel there are also several points in the plot where the plot is facilitated by the everyday absence of internet access and mobile phones. thus at one stage, Brunetti has to purchase books in order to read up about environmental toxicity, something that could be done with the click of a mouse today.

The novel opens in the early morning with Brunetti being awoken from sleep to deal with the body of an athletic young man found floating in a canal; death was the result of a stabbing. The discovery of American coins in his pocket and examination of his teeth suggests the possibility that the victim is American; this is later confirmed by analysis of the sodden tickets in the corpse's pocket and leads Brunetti to an American military base in near-by Vicenza.

The investigation is immediately complicated by the nature of the American and Italian jurisdictions, and by Brunetti's superior, the oafish Vice-Questore Patta, demanding that the death be shown to be the result of a mugging. The body is soon thought to be that of an American, Sergeant Mike Foster, reported missing from the base, and so his superior, Captain Terry Peters, a paediatrician, is requested to identify the body. Her response is such that Brunetti immediately thinks that her relationship with Foster extends beyond the simply professional.

The author brilliantly described the response of Brunetti and his colleagues to an (attractive) woman army officer and to the difficulties that Brunetti has in gaining access to the base to find out more about the dead man. He seeks the assistance of the head of the Carabinieri team attached to the army base and Leon very effectively develops their relationship from one of initial mutual suspicion to close collaboration and even friendship.

Talking to Captain Peters on the base, Brunetti is even more convinced that she is hiding something and the complexity of the case is greatly increased following his finding incriminating evidence in the dead man's apartment and, shortly thereafter, by the apparent suicide of Captain Peters. before she died she sent Brunetti some crucial information in the post which feels like a rather creaky development.

On first visiting the base, Brunetti is amazed by the steps that the American military have taken to recreate their country in Italy and he begins to understand the differences in culture and procedural investigation between the two countries. Given the focus throughout the book, and the series, on food Brunetti is amazed at the priorities given to Baskin Robbins, Burger King, frozen pizza and Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlours. I have read that Leon spent time on such a US base and the writing of these scenes certainly has the ring of truth about them.

The investigation is set against Brunetti's interactions with his family, his academic wife, Paola, his daughter, Chiara, and his son, Raffielo (Raffi), a teenager who is at "that` age. Brunetti's contacts with his patrician in-laws, which are as complicated as walking through a minefield, and beautifully described and become even more tortuous when he seeks information from his father-in-law about businessmen who have become entangled in the murder investigation and in a parallel case, which Patta has ordered Brunetti to lead, involving a suspicious theft of artworks from a well-connected businessman who is found to be deep in debt.

The minor, background characters are effectively delineated; in addition to the obsequious Patta, Signora Concetta, the mother of a minor criminal who is out of his depth working with businessman/crooks; Riccardo Fosco, a campaigning journalist now in a wheelchair after being attacked by members of the Mafia; Maggiore Ambrogiani, head of the Carabinieri station on the army base who has been given the job of investigating Foster's murder from the Italian side and Sergeant Vianello, the Commissario's trusted right-hand man who is embarrassed to be seen in public with a bouquet of roses. Brunetti is a very empathetic person who understands the backgrounds of those he works with and has to investigate, and is often sympathetic to their histories.

Some reviewers have been disappointed by the ending of the book, describing it as cynical. However, it seems likely that the social divisions in Italian society and the close contacts between politicians, businessmen and the police, at the highest levels, do lead to major financial and other irregularities, such as that shown to be behind the two murders and the theft of the paintings, which will bring financial benefits and back-handers to all concerned but deliver environmental, social and health catastrophies to the everyday citizen. We share Brunetti's frustration that such people and their cabals appear to operate above the law.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cynical Digging Pays Off, 31 Aug. 2007
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 127,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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If you liked Death at La Fenice, the debut of this series, you'll probably like the first 80 percent of Death in a Strange Country even better. Seldom have I experienced the joy of seeing most of the second novel in a series far exceed the debut. Unfortunately, the last 20 percent isn't nearly as good as the ending of Death at La Fenice so you will conclude on a down note.

A body floats facedown in a Venetian canal, bumping against the steps of the embankment in front of the Basilica of SS. Giovanni e Paolo. No one notices the corpse until an early rising woman peeks out to see if her husband's boat needs to be bailed out. I'm sure you can feel the rich setting that Donna Leon has wonderfully described for the beginning of the investigation. When no one can be roused on the night shift, Commissario Guido Brunetti is called at home and grumpily heads to the scene. Finding American coins in the deceased's pockets, Brunetti immediately knows he has a hot potato on his hands. Vice-Questore Patta, his superior officer, makes that point even more obvious by poking his nose into the case soon after the beginning.

When the autopsy reveals someone with expert knife skills has dispatched the young man with the American coins in his pocket, Brunetti realizes that this may not be a simple murder. The dead man's teeth show American dental work, and the police begin calling hotels but find no one missing. By analyzing some papers in the corpse's pockets, it looks like the man has come from the American base in Vicenza, near Venice. Could terrorism be involved?

Contacting the base, the MPs don't seem very interested that one of their own might be dead. Eventually, they do find that Sergeant Michael Foster, the base's public health inspector, is missing and send his superior officer, Captain Terry Peters, a female pediatrician. Captain Peters identifies Foster and seems unusually upset and inquisitive. What does she know that she's not sharing?

Traveling to the American base, Brunetti is astonished to see the lengths that Americans go to in recreating their home country on foreign soil. He's even more certain that he's being frozen out of the investigation by the Americans. A surprise find at the dead man's apartment seals that impression and makes him wonder when the attractive Captain Peters will spill the beans to him.

Although I am making this sound like this novel is all about the investigation, that's a false impression. Interspaced with the investigation, Brunetti tends to his family, and we learn a lot about their relationships and family culture. I think you'll be charmed by the Brunettis, especially the parents. They get along well and make room for one another. As with Death at La Fenice, Brunetti also has a social evening with his patrician in-laws. You'll have fun watching how Brunetti has a hard time enjoying himself in a casino.

The case seems at a dead end with key witnesses become unavailable. But a surprise resurrects the opportunity. Brunetti rapidly makes progress. The faster he unravels the mystery, the stronger the forces are that he arouses to put pressure on him to stop investigating.

The first 80 percent of the book has everything you might like in a mystery: a troubling case, unclear motives, a lack of suspects, slender clues, an amusing detective, good character development involving the detective and his family, and a delightful setting to contemplate . . . Venice.

If you don't expect much from the book's conclusion, you won't be as disappointed as I was. The quality of the first 80 percent and the excellent ending of death at La Fenice had led me to expect something brilliant. Instead, I found a cynical ending.
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4.0 out of 5 stars AGAINST FORMIDABLE ODDS, 10 April 2012
By 
Mr. D. L. Rees "LEE DAVID" (DORSET) - See all my reviews
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The last thing Venice wants - a murdered American. Terrorism? Any such hint could severely threaten the tourist industry. Let it be a simple robbery gone wrong! Vice Questore Patta leans on Commissario Guido Brunetti to find it so....

The incorruptible officer prefers truth to political expediency, inquiries soon to reveal sinister undercurrents. Why are people on high closing ranks, creating obstacles? Can there be links between the American Army base and powerful mobsters? What about the seemingly untouchable Viscardi? Will he forever make a mockery of the law?

Again one warms towards Brunetti, so doggedly persevering - striving for justice amidst so much that is corrupt. Whatever the pressures, he tries not to neglect his wife Paola and their teenage children - appetizing smells forever to greet him after climbing those ninety four steps to his home on the fourth floor.

The pace may be too slow for some readers, whilst others welcome the chances to linger a while - savouring descriptions of places visited and people met. The humour appeals, especially whenever petty Patta summons Brunetti to his office.

On this occasion is Brunetti out of his depth, the opposition too formidable? This is a novel full of subtleties and surprises - including, out of the blue, Paola declaring Jane Eyre "a cunning, self-righteous little bitch". Now THERE is a topic for the book groups!

Recommended.
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Death In A Strange Country: (Brunetti 2)
Death In A Strange Country: (Brunetti 2) by Donna Leon (Paperback - 4 Mar. 2004)
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