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Drawing Conclusions (Commissario Guido Brunetti, No. 20) Hardcover – April 4, 2011

189 customer reviews
Book 20 of 24 in the Commissario Brunetti Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Leon's fine 20th Commisario Guido Brunetti mystery (after 2010's A Question of Belief) explores violence against women and the treatment of the elderly. The Venetian medical examiner has ruled that Costanza Altavilla, a widow in her 60s, died of a heart attack, but Brunetti has his doubts. The discovery of several changes of clothes in various sizes in the deceased's modest apartment and Brunetti's talks with the insightful Signorina Elettra reveal that Altavilla was running a safe house for women escaping domestic violence. Could one of the abusive men have confronted Altavilla and scared her to death? Brunetti's investigation takes him to an old-age home, where Altavilla volunteered, in search of answers. Leon provides a vivid view of Venice, balancing the city's "glory days" with the reality of "the flaking dandruff of sun-blasted paint peeling from shutters." Compassionate yet incorruptible, Brunetti knows that true justice doesn't always end in an arrest or a trial. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Leon�s twentieth novel starring Venetian police commissario Guido Brunetti is one of her best. But why? Not because she breaks new ground, either in terms of the characters or the story. This tale of the murder of a retired teacher who was helping abused women escape their abusers offers a sensitive but never by-the-numbers exploration of a contemporary social problem, as do many of the other novels in the series, and it takes plenty of breaks between the crime-solving to portray fan favorite Brunetti the family man, interacting joyously with his wife and children. It also delivers a typically Leon-style ambiguous ending in which traditional justice is either less important than or even detrimental to Brunetti�s real concern: doing his best to set things right for the various troubled souls he encounters in the course of his investigation. So what makes the book stand out? It�s simply this: Brunetti walks around Venice a lot in this novel, and when he walks, he muses. And when he muses, the reader listens almost hypnotically, transfixed by the somehow ennobling ordinariness of this remarkable man�s humanity but also by the subtlety of his mind and his absolute refusal to succumb to the tyranny of bureaucrats and moralists. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Leon�s popularity among mystery fans has grown steadily, but over the last several years, she has become a must-read for all those who favor character-driven crime stories. She is especially popular in libraries and among librarian mystery readers. --Bill Ott

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (April 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119794
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119797
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A New Yorker of Irish/Spanish descent, Donna Leon first went to Italy in 1965, returning regularly over the next decade or so while pursuing a career as an academic in the States and then later in Iran, China and finally Saudi Arabia. Leon has received both the CWA Macallon Silver Dagger for Fiction and the German Corrine Prize for her novels featuring Commisario Guido Brunetti. She lives in Venice.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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The retired school teacher certainly had heart trouble, as her medicine chest would attest, and she clearly died of a heart attack as the autopsy would prove. So why is Commissario Guido Brunetti suspicious? Well, there's something about those odd marks on her body and the bloody gash to her head...could something or someone frightful have precipitated that heart attack? And where are the pictures that should be hanging from those nails on the walls? And why is the chest in the guest bedroom full of unopened packages of women's underwear in three different sizes and of a kind the dead woman wouldn't have been caught dead in? And why is her son, the Patta family veterinarian, so jumpy?

While the other Brunetti novels all feature two unrelated cases, this 20th in the series has just one case, but two unrelated avenues for investigating it--a group that shelters battered women and an old folks' home--each of which will take some strange and unexpected turns. Also unlike the others, the self important Venetian powerbrokers who specialize in interfering with Brunetti's investigations and keeping their corrupt pals out of jail have nothing to get up in arms about this time. Of course it just wouldn't be a "Donna Leon" without some swipes at Venice's corruption, clergy, garbage problems and yellow journalism, but she seems to have cut it back a notch or two here. And, while she gives us fewer scenes of Brunetti family life this time, she also delves more deeply into how Ispettore Vianello's more empathetic personality and Signorina Elettra's increasingly illegal investigatory shenanigans contribute to this series's crime solving. I found all these variations of format and emphasis very refreshing, although I'm hoping for a bit more time with Paola and the kids next time.
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68 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Julia Walker VINE VOICE on March 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lately I've been reading mysteries and thrillers by authors with more than 15 books in a series and I've realized one fairly simple thing: authors need one sort of talent to get noticed and a very different set of skills to write that 20th novel.

The best - well, really worst - example of a long-running series running out of steam is Jack Higgins' Sean Dillon series. I got the most recent installment from the library, found it curiously flat in some ways and really interesting in others, and ordered the next book back. And I kept ordering, reading the series backwards.

By the time I was back on novel 10 or 11, I knew two things: Higgins is a terrific plotter and a very lazy writer of characters. Yes, there is character development, but you have to read the whole series to notice it. And if you read the whole series, you will read the same intro paragraph for Ferguson all 18 times - exactly the same, same hair, same tie. Also for Sean, Hannah (who at least changes by dying), and all the other regulars.

(Although, to be fair, Robert Parker's Spenser series became even more thin/flat toward the end, but nil nisi . . . .)

Conversely, Marcia Muller manages to keep her 28-book Sharon McCone series brilliantly fresh with vivid characters, all of whom change from year to year.

So where does this leave Donna Leon? She's got a extra crayon in her box: her characters read. By crafting plots with an eye toward the books her characters read, Leon gives us more depth and nuance than we find in many award-winning novels, the "real" books that my book-club-loving friends celebrate.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti mysteries are special for their focus on characters as much as on strong story line. "Drawing Conclusions" is a fine illustration of how good the author is in populating her stories with interesting humans under stress of common and uncommon varieties. The lead in this novel, as in most, is the good Commissario Brunetti himself, but the indefatigable Signorina Elettra (the de facto manager of the Venice police department) has a star turn here also. Beyond those principals, author Leon has given unusual time and space to an engrossing secondary cast that represents the victims and "villains" in the story--much to the great benefit of the novel and to the pleasure of the reader. And for those Brunetti regulars, Brunetti's wife and kids are part and parcel of the novel as are the insufferable Vice Questore Patta, the reptilian Lt. Scarpa, the sardonic Inspector Vianello, the city of Venice and Italy writ large. All bring the usual leavening, counterpoint and humanity to the storyline.

"Drawing Conclusions" opens with an interesting teaser. A young professional woman returns to her Venice apartment after an unsuccessful visit to Sicily to meet the family of her boyfriend (all explained in engrossing detail); within minutes of the homecoming she discovers the body of a neighbor--an older woman who has been holding her mail during her absence. Commissario Brunetti is called to the scene and senses that the neighbor's death may not have been a natural one. The investigation that follows becomes one of the subtlest and most nuanced cases in Brunetti's long career.

As usual, author Leon is interested in current social issues and centers her story on the treatment of the elderly by their caregivers and perceived benefactors.
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