Top positive review
"It was the siren at San Marco, calling out to the sleeping city"
10 December 2008
"It was the siren at San Marco, calling out to the sleeping city the news that the waters were rising: acqua alta had begun."
Ever visited Venice and wondered about those boards and lengths of tubular metal that appear in the strangest of places? Did you think they were there for use in an open-air table-top sale? In Saint Mark's Square? No, those boards are there for the acqua alta, those days when the waters of the lagoon invade the alleys of the watery city. Alas, they occur with more and more regularity as the city continues to sink and climate change continues to result in rising sea-levels.
`Acqua Alta' is the fifth Brunetti novel, and sees the return of lesbian couple Brett Lynch (Bette Lynch?) and Flavia Petrelli, archaeologist and opera diva respectively. The focus now is on Brett and her reputation, as some ancient Chinese ceramics go missing, and the director of the city's museums is somehow implicated in switching them for fake ones. The story and the writing return to form after the somewhat disappointing fourth novel.
In this instalment we learn more about Signorina Elettra's background and how she came to be at the Questura. But why would Brunetti vow never the let her and his wife Paola meet? We can take some assurance, though, in Brunetti's boss being continuously bumptious ("This isn't a social club here Commissario") and in the fact that there appears no sign of the scaffolding around the church of San Lorenzo coming down.
There are the occasional references that one feels can only have come from personal experience. For example, when the author writes about a bar on the Zattere - here called Il Cucciolo (the cub, the puppy) - that Brunetti avoided because "the waiters were the rudest in the city", one wonders if she had a real bar in mind. Perhaps there is also a dig at the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century art historian Bernhard Berenson, when Donna Leon has a character comment about Berenson's judgement on Venetian paintings being up for sale.
This is an enjoyable read; now I am ready for the next one in the series.