this review was written by Ro Bennett and read live on the bookshow 30th April 2014
This is the second book I have read by Donna Leon. I reviewed Uniform Justice on April 25th last year - doesn’t time fly! This is the tenth book in the series, Uniform Justice was the twelth and I have yet to read the first book. They are set in Venice and its surroundings and this book focuses on Pellestrina, a thin strip of island south-west of the city of Venice with a tiny close-knit, closed-mouth fishing community. There is a very useful map at the beginning of the book.
The murder of two clam fishermen off the island of Pellestrina, south of the Lido on the Venetian lagoon, draws Commissario Brunetti into the close-knit community of the island, bound together by a code of loyalty and a suspicion of outsiders worthy of the Mafia. When the boss' secretary Signorina Elettra volunteers to visit the island, where she has relatives, Brunetti finds himself torn between his duty to solve the murders, concerns for Elettra's safety, and his not entirely straightforward feelings for her ...
Having seen the characters develop over these two books I have decided to read the other books in chronological order.
I enjoyed the book initially. It was a gentle relaxing read. The characters and their way of life were well described and the descriptions of Venice and Pellestrina were interesting and informative and I could visualise the setting. The reader learns about the problems facing the locals who fish - stocks in decline because of pollution and the illegal dredging of clams. Crippling quotas add to the difficulties, but many officials are corrupt and accept bribes.
I enjoyed the author’s pokes at the corruption and incompetence of the the police bureaucracy, the courts, the government the tax department- her focus on moral and political issues. Apparently because of this tendency her books aren’t published in Italy.
However I didn’t enjoy the last couple of chapters or the ending which although there was an element of suspense, I found so implausible I felt myself getting impatient, so I skimmed them. Neverthe less it was a good read on the whole.
Donna Leon has lived in Venice for many years and previously lived in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China, where she worked as a teacher. Her previous novels featuring Commissario Brunetti have all been highly acclaimed. She writes for pleasure and that comes across in the books