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Donna Leon's mysteries are always precious gems!,
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This review is from: Blood From A Stone: (Brunetti) (Paperback)
Another episode in Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti series cannot come too soon! In this, the 14th book, Leon's inimitable policeman is once agan, well, inimitable. It
was a dark, icy and anything sleepy wintry night in Venice, when suddenly five shots ring out, or so it goes. However, Leon's "Blood from a Stone" is anything but simple or trite.
A young African man, a "vu compra" (one of the illegal immigrants known as "venditore ambulante," who sell counterfeit designer luggage in the local squares) is shot dead by two
men. It is so professionally done that when Brunetti arrives on the scene, there is little wonder that little or no evidence, save the dead body, remains. What does remain, however, is enough to trigger Brunetti's suspicion that this is no ordinary shooting and that darker, more sinister, even evil, forces lie simply beneath the surface.
Thus, armed with his usual loyal team members (Signorina Ellatra and Sgt. Vianello,among others), Brunetti once again sets out to solve this case and once again he meets head on the opposition from his own superiors. By now, of course, Brunetti knows that
there is a much bigger picture here and to tread lightly is an undestatement. Still, with his usual tenacity, teamed up with his own unique code of ethics ("for an Italian law officer"),
he begins the investigation, which, as Leon usually does, leads us into waters where no angels (or sensible police chiefs) would dare to tread. "Blood from a Stone" looks into a red-hot international political picture, one very real and seems to know no boundaries, or even depths to which it extends. These socially significant issues generally transcend into Brunetti's personal life, his wife (an academician and healthy liberal in her own right at a Venezian university) and two children. It is perhaps this familial inclusion that makes Leon's Brunetti a more humane, compassionate individual, one whom any ready can
readily respect and admire.
Leon's prose seems to capture the tone and atmosphere of the "pearl of the Adriatic" perfectly. "Opposite them a small group was gathered around three buskers, two violinists and a cellist, who were playing a piece that sounded both baroque and out of tune." Venice, Leon's home of record now, has a special appeal to Leon and as an American ex-patriot she seems content not only to expound on its beauty and pluses, but to address
those areas, especially the corruption, that she feels need addressing. "The Paganelli(Brunetti observes) was a narrow hotel, slipped in, like an architectural dash separating
two capital letters, between the Danieli and the Savoia & Jolanda."
As in her other books, Leon makes no effort to hide her criticism of local (and national) graft and corruption, which seem to permeate all levels and all classes. Each of her books tends to concernate, but not exclusively, on a major issue, whether it be political, religious, social, economic, or human rights. Leon's prose reflects a depth of understanding of these issues that perhaps many of the other police procedural authors avoid (with the exception, perhaps of P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, and Martha Grimes, at times). Not that a novelist has any obligation to go after social injustices, for, after all, one characteristic of fiction is merely to entertain and there are many, many fine novels which do so.
But "Blood from a Stone" certainly is one of Leon's best, a great sign that her series is not
weakening or running out of steam. Here's to future Brunetti episodes!