From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Set during an oppressive Venetian August, Leon's masterful 19th Commisario Guido Brunetti mystery (after 2009's About Face
) presents Brunetti with two puzzles that impinge on his most intimate beliefs. Close associate Ispettore Vianello, who's worried about his elderly aunt's involvement with an astrologer, nudges Brunetti toward ruminations on the differences in male and female evidences of affection. Meanwhile, Toni Brusca, head of employment records at the Commune, who's perplexed by a female judge's erratic court case postponements, surprises Brunetti by implying that a woman could be more criminal than a man. Brunetti patiently untangles a sordid skein of desires warped, trusts abused, and loves distorted into depravity. As one good man who still believes in the rule of law despite his disgust at Italy's mounting corruption, Brunetti allows readers to share his belief that decency and honesty can, for a little while, stave off the angst of the modern world. (May)
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*Starred Review* Leon’s many fans love this series for the Venetian setting, the complex family dynamics, and the hero’s mix of melancholy and compassion, and in this nineteenth installment, they get all of the above. It’s summer in the city for Commissario Guido Brunetti, whose family and colleagues are sweating out the heat wave in largely non-air-conditioned Venice. (Leon does weather as well as any contemporary crime novelist: from Acqua Alta (1996), in which rain-soaked streets became a vivid metaphor for the city’s corruption-drenched politics, to this novel, in which the inescapable heat evokes that same corruption and the way its stench pervades all aspects of society.) Working multiple cases, Brunetti is struggling to find an opportunity to escape with his family to the cool of the mountains, where he dreams of sleeping under an eiderdown quilt. One case involves an aunt’s colleague, who appears to be giving great amounts of cash to a religious charlatan, while another pits Brunetti against his usual adversaries: corrupt politicians (this time it’s a judge who delays trials for a hefty price). As always, Brunetti finds and agonizes over the human tragedies that lurk beneath the creases of criminal activity. He is in the business of assuaging pain rather than solving crimes, especially when the criminals are corrupt officials, who are as unstoppable as the heat is inescapable. Yes, they can be embarrassed, but “if embarrassment were a bar to advancement, there would be no government and no Church.” A unique combination of bedrock cynicism and warm humanity. --Bill Ott