Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon
I am currently sat watching the semi-final of Wimbledon in the middle of heatwave sipping a raspberry lemonade. I could not be embracing summer more. We had our village reading group last night and I have just finished a cracking read by Douglas Kennedy (review coming soon), but wanted to talk about an author I have admired for sometime; Donna Leon.
I rediscovered Donna Leon and her kindly decent detective Guido Brunetti at the end of last year when I was feeling slightly frazzled. Since then I've started to read the novels in order. How would the second book stack up?
Early one morning, Guido Brunetti, Commissario of the Venice Police, confronts a grizzly sight when the body of a young man is fished out of a fetid Venetian canal. All the clues point to a violent mugging, but for Brunetti, robbery seems altogether too convenient a motive. Then something very incriminating is discovered in the dead man's flat - something which points to the existence of a high level Cabal and Brunetti becomes convinced that somebody, somewhere, is taking great pains to provide a ready-made solution to the crime.
It is always lovely to fall back in love with an author's work, and since re-reading Death at La Fenice last year, I've loved visiting the works of Donna Leon again.
The setting is beautiful. Venice behaves like a grand old lady, slightly moth-eaten, but still with all her finery and jewels. We witness the city through Brunetti's eyes. He is fully aware of the stench of corruption but remains devoted to her. .
Guido Brunetti is the most wonderful of detectives. Quiet and unassuming, with a gentle and inquisitve nature that ensures no stone is unturned. He is patient and methodical. We also have a glimpse into family life in Italy. His wife Paola is a university lecturer who makes the most mouth-watering food. Each meal is carefully described with mouth-watering detail; plump, ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and the finest meats are prepared with delicacy and are a lesson in meditation. Good coffee remains a must.
The crime provides a fascinating glimpse into life on an American airbase. The titular strange country. The base is a part of America in the middle of Italy; American cars, food, restaurants and leisure activities which are puzzling to Guido. And he is forced to diplomatically investigate the crime. The whole process is intriguing.
In conclusion, this is a satisfying follow up to Death at La Fenice. I have loved learning more about Guido and Italian life and am already looking forward to the next novel.