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Friday, 24 May 2013

VENICE under the watchful eyes of Guido Brunetti and Donna Leon

Donna Leon.jpg
Photo courtesy Wikipedia
One of the authors who inspired us set up TripFiction was, of course, Donna Leon. One of the most long-standing authors to use location as a character in its own right, she brings the "feel" of Venice to the page through her descriptive prose. She is, in fact American by birth but has lived in, and observed Venice for the past 25 years. She has written well over 20 books featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, who tackles crime across the Laguna.

We would love it if you would talk to us and our wider community about which particular Donna Leon novels would feature at the top of your personal list - where should a first time Donna Leon reader start? Which is your personal favourite? Inevitably some of the books are just that much better than others, and knowing which ones to pick up can be a really daunting task. So, please help your fellow readers, both actual and armchair, by leaving a review on the TripFiction website and/or using the Comments Box below to share your favourites. Imagine, there might be one clear favourite but without your help we don't know which one that would be.....!

We set the ball rolling by reviewing the Donna Leon novel we have read most recently - A Sea of Troubles, her 10th Brunetti novel.  

This book is largely set on the fishing island of Pellestrina, and Commissario Brunetti is tasked with resolving the murder of two fisherman, a father and son. The former is universally disliked, the latter is truly mourned.

The writing is as languorous as the lapping waves along the canals, the food on Brunetti's table is delicious as only Venetian food can be, and the detecting is interspersed with the odd glass of Prosecco or Vin Santo. Bonsuan, the police pilot, navigates the waterways as Brunetti shuttles back and forth between the islands, perhaps past the island of San Servolo, gliding past Santa Maria delle Grazie and San Clemente and on to Saca Sessola. Paola, his ever supportive wife, is always in the background, voicing her thoughts, keeping his conscience, getting him to think things through carefully and providing sustenance (both emotional and via food). Reading Donna Leon, for us, is not overly challenging, but brings Venice to life and feels as comfortable as a well worn pair of shoes. “Donna Leon’s engaging books have been the cheapest way to travel to Italy for quite some time…” (amazon)

Ann Reddy  - regular contributor to the TF site - reviews our second Donna Leon novel, number 17 in the series, The Girl of His Dreams

"I picked this book to review because it is set in beautiful Venice. I have visited this city many times and feel that I know it quite well, that is as a tourist. 

The Girl of His Dreams is one of a series of crime books featuring the detective Guido Brunetti. It has a story running through about a religious sect. A priest, who also has an interesting past, is concerned that the charismatic sect leader is persuading people to part with their money and even sell their homes. 

The title of the story does not start until about a third of the  way in, when the body of a young girl is pulled out of the Grand Canal. Here starts the investigation into what? A murder? A robbery? An accident? The girl with the fair hair is from the gypsy encampment on the mainland. Here you get an understanding of the nomadic way of life and how they try to live outside the rules.

Brunetti is a compassionate character who despite 'orders' wants to find out what happened to the little girl. I am not familiar with the Brunetti character and this book did not really give me much more depth to him. Perhaps if I had read this series of books in order I would feel I knew him better. 

You will recognise the names of Venice and I could picture the vaporetti on the Grand Canal. The Girl of His Dreams gives you a glimpse of living in Venice and the fact that Brunetti does not like driving, reminds you of the magical waterways. 

A personal view, I would recommend that if you have not read any of Donna Leon's series of Brunetti crime books that you start at the first. I struggled to really connect with the characters and it was a slow start. However, I did picture beautiful Venice which brought back wonderful memories of my many holidays there".

All our Venice set novels can be found here

Share with us your favourite Donna Leon in the Comments Box below and let's see which one comes overall top!

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