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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
Wilful Behaviour: (Brunetti 11)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 September 2010
"She was eating an apple. The knife was on the table."

Thus confesses the murderer in this eleventh instalment of the Commissario Brunetti series. I am glad to report it is a return to form following the disappointment of the tenth, `A Sea of Troubles'.

This time we stay in the city itself and explore the question of honour. Honour is uppermost in Paola's mind as she teaches her students the works of Henry James and Edith Wharton, but they are also uppermost in Brunetti as events that took place in the city during the Second World War intrude into a seemingly motiveless murder of one of Paola's students at the university. Venice at all times has had its secrets, but those of the war seem to be the hardest to unravel, perhaps because their horrors were too great.

Donna Leon maintains her usual eye for irony and for the age. She notes how, "The Madonna had once saved the city from plague, and now there was a church. The Americans had saved the country from the Germans, and now there was a McDonald's." Her talent for exposing the seamier side of the city, for the things that the Venetians would rather the tourists did not see or hear about, remains untarnished. For of Brunetti's friend Marco, who complains of having to pay bribes to the city's planning office, "so much of what would be sold in his shop as `original Venetian handicrafts' was made in third world countries where the closest the workers ever came to a canal was the one behind their houses that served as a sewer."

I'm not sure that the contrived denouement fulfilled my expectations, but that goes, I guess, with the genre in which she writes. But perhaps my own frustration with her endings derives more from the frustrations of the Italian legal system rather than from her own imagination. Justice - and that honour which is the subject of this novel - are not, it seems, uppermost in the minds of many of those enmeshed in the country's legal system. Nevertheless, Leon is not totally off the hook, for there is something unreal about the fact that Brunetti and his wife only now, after twenty or more years of marriage, discuss what their families did during the Second World War.

It's good to see Leon give Vianello the promotion he has for so long deserved, but the currency has failed to be transformed from lira to the Euro, despite the book originally being published in 2002. Still, it's unfair to moan about these things when Leon has such a fine eye for a wonderful musical metaphor: "As formulaic as a Haydn symphony, the children's bickering had moved into an adagio but Brunetti, in expectation of the allegro tempestoso that was sure to come, closed the door and sat on the sofa ..." I sat on my sofa and read this book in (almost) one go: whilst not an allegro con fuoco, the theme of the novel's steady andante was a pleasurable experience.
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on 14 September 2017
I enjoyed the sense of mystery in this book and as usual with Donna Leon the intelligent discussions. The characters were intriguing and the pace was good. For once the ending of a book in this series was consistent and satisfying with a slight twist. I found it difficult to put down.
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on 7 July 2017
Brilliant Read!
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on 4 October 2013
Not too sure about this story at all.
I have read a few of the books, sometimes I think the writing is a bit tired and thin.
I prefer unabridged Audio versions, as, obviously, much of the meat of the story is lost.
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on 3 May 2017
The item arrived on time and in excellent condition, plus sometimes a useful bookmark - a nice touch.
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on 13 August 2014
donna leon does not miss a single trick molto bene
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 April 2008
I've read most of Donna Leon's books and have enjoyed them all, but think that this one is outstanding and deservedly won a Silver Dagger Award. The book is one of the evolving series of crime stories concerning Commissario Brunetti and is an engrossing read that never flags. Donna Leon doesn't only write excellent detective fiction she also fleshes out the narrative with psychological insight into her characters who come alive on the page. The grimness of murder is leavened by some humour at the complexities of Italian bureaucracy and by the humanity of Brunetti and the ups and downs of his family life. There's an additional bonus in the mouth-watering descriptions of the meals that Brunetti's wife prepares for the family.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 20 April 2012
Student Claudia, precocious and determined, wants corrected an alleged wartime miscarriage of justice. Soon she is murdered. Commissario Guido Brunetti investigates - progress hampered because so many have much to hide about what they did in the war years....

Here is very much a "don't mention the war!" scenario - Italians generally kept in the dark, school textbooks highly selective about the role the country played. Amongst much else that is unsavoury, details emerge of widespread profiteering, misappropriation of art treasures, skeletons in cupboards of prominent figures. Movingly Guido and wife Paola also learn how their own fathers fared - such experiences forever to haunt.

This is a strong addition to the series - truth gradually evolving as the result of painstaking research. Invaluable, as ever, is secretary Elettra with her awesome (not always legal) computer prowess.

Brunetti remains increasingly jaundiced about what Venice has become. Pigeons and tourists equally annoying. Corruption rampant. Bribery a way of life. (He considers a poor notary as inconceivable as a celibate priest.)

He has no reservations, though, about the meals Paola serves - they veritable feasts, which make one wonder how he manages to achieve anything in the afternoons. Some feel domestic details hold things back a bit. Many, though, enjoy them, a more rounded portrayal given of a man otherwise bogged down in routine.

There is much to admire on many levels. Vividly depicted characters abound, a clear picture often deftly given ("a voice as flat as her bosom"). Some evoke special sympathy, their love so sadly misplaced. Much thought is provoked about the advisability of digging up the past. Is it sometimes better simply not to know? Another topic for the book groups!

Recommended.
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on 31 July 2011
The 11th Commissario Brunetti is a classic whodunit story. It starts out with Paola Brunetti's student Claudia Leonardo asking both Brunettis, if her deceased grandfather, tried and convicted after WWII for art thefts, can have his honour restored to him. She and her step-grandmother feeling that he was innocent. Doesn't sound too funny of a plot line but when Claudia is found stabbed to death, the case suddenly gets complex.

Brunetti who loves history like myself, has to question his father-in-law, Count Falier, and his artist friend Lele, about life in Venezia during WWII. He is also forced to talk to a lot of people that still are of the opinion that Mussolini was the best thing that ever happened to Italy and what Italy needs now. When Claudia's step-grandmother from Austria, also dies, it seems like the crime can never be solved. But then something is said that finally makes things fall in to place for both reader and Brunetti. The end is sinister and very sad. A definite page turner.
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on 23 March 2016
Those who, like me, already love the Brunetti books will enjoy this one. One of his wife's students comes to ask for his help and when she become the victim of crime, he feels personally involved.

Donna Leon doesn't give us sensational crimes and fanciful denouements, although this book has a neat twist that I didn't see coming. She bases her stories round character and the solution depends on understanding how people might feel and act in a given situation.
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