Friday, April 15, 2022

Dressed for Death: Donna Leon

This is the third book in the Commissario Brunetti series (also published as The Anonymous Venetian); I read the first two books in 2011.  It was a very complicated story and a great reintroduction to the series. The police procedural part of the book is very well done. The case was interesting, and had just enough twists and turns to keep me guessing.

It is August, Venice's weather is hot and humid, and Commissario Brunetti is preparing to go on vacation in the mountains with his family, to escape the heat. He hasn't had a vacation with his family in a long time, and he has promised them it will happen this time. Instead, he sends his family off to the cool mountains while he has to work on a new case. This happens to policemen a lot. 

Brunetti has to go to Mestre because the Commissarios there are all unavailable. The dead body of a woman, dressed as a prostitute, has been found near a slaughterhouse. But it turns out the body is really a man, and the assumption is that he was a transvestite. The face is so mutilated that identification of the body is difficult. This slows down the investigation. As the case proceeds, Brunetti runs into corruption in the government and the investigation is blocked from many avenues. 

Brunetti's wife Paola and his two kids are mostly missing from the story, but on the plus side Elettra Zorzi is introduced in this book. Signorina Elettra is Brunetti's boss's assistant, and a very entertaining and enterprising character. 

While Brunetti is at home alone he reads a lot and cooks some wonderful, simple meals. The emphasis on food and reading reminded me of the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri. I am only a few books into both series and I am enjoying both of them. 

The descriptions in the book were wonderful and spellbinding. Usually I don't notice that so much. The initial paragraphs of the book are gorgeous descriptive prose, even if about an unpleasant subject (the discovery of the victim's body).

Because the case centers around prostitutes and transvestites, there is social commentary on prejudices against homosexuals and other marginalized groups. But this does not overwhelm the plot.

This is the fourth book I have reviewed for the European Reading Challenge.


Publisher:   Penguin / Grove Press, 2005 (orig. pub. 1994)
Length:      343 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Commissario Brunetti, #3
Setting:      Italy (Mestre, Venice)
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:      On my TBR pile since 2009.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I have always meant to try these but never have.

TracyK said...

They are worth a try, Patti. The depiction of Venice is well done (though I haven't been there) and I liked the writing. I have read that the author says you can start anywhere because the characters don't age that much throughout the series.

Margot Kinberg said...

I like this series very much, Tracy, and it's great to see one of Leon's novel's featured here. I think you're right, too, that she does descriptions very well. Whenever I read one of her novels, I really feel that I'm there, if that makes sense.

TracyK said...

Margot, I do remember that you are fond of this series. Sometimes in a series like this it is the characters not directly involved with the crime that are the most interesting.

Rick Robinson said...

I’ve liked the couple I read, but it’s been a long time.

TracyK said...

Rick, I have a few more of her books on my shelves, mostly more of the early ones, so I will read more of them now and then.

Kathy D. said...

This is one of the bext mystery series in the crime fiction world. I
have read every book and love the characters, especially Guido Brunetti
and Paola Falier, his spouse.

There is a lot of reflection in these books. Brunetti is always thinking
about the world, Venice, people and more. Not much violence in these
pages, but human relations and thinking are main features.

If I had to go to a desert island and bring books, I'd bring this series.

TracyK said...

Kathy, I have noticed the reflection in these books, and that is one of the things that made this one enjoyable for me. Thanks for mentioning that. I will be reading more of them.

CLM said...

I need to try this series again, partly because I love Venice and partly because people like you (and my mother) really like it. My mother went to hear her speak in Boston a few years ago and it was a sold out theater. I had a hard time getting into the first one but often that can just be one's mood or lack of patience.

There is a paperback on the windowsill and I was hoping it was book 1 but, alas it is 12. I had the same difficulty with the first Jackson Brodie book but after I listened to it on audio I was completely hooked.

TracyK said...

Constance, if you do try another book in the series, I would be interested in how well it describes Venice. It seems good to me, but I have never been there. Definitely there are a lot of fans for this series. I don't remember the first two books being as good as this one, but that was 10 years ago and like you said, maybe I wasn't in the right mood.

col2910 said...

Another author I've heard good things about but never read.

TracyK said...

Col, I was surprised that this book in the Commissario Brunetti series had such challenging themes. Amazing how many of the series set in Italy and Spain deal with government corruption.