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A Question of Belief: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery (Commissario Guido Brunetti Mysteries) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 4, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 105 customer reviews
Book 19 of 24 in the Commissario Brunetti Series

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

*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

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Product Details

  • Series: Commissario Guido Brunetti Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119421
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Billy J. Hobbs VINE VOICE on April 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Venice this summer has been hotter than blazes, hotter than Hades, hotter than Dante's inner circles and what must a police commasario to do to get out of the city for a vacation sure to be a cool respite from all the law and order stuff he deals with year-round?

For Donna Leon's inimitable Guido Brunetti it seems the summer's heat is interminable but there's a light (a cool breeze?) just ahead--a vacation to the Alps to cool things off. At least that's what he's hoping. "Not only was it too hot to think about crossing the city to go home for lunch; it was too hot to think about eating."

Alas, in Ms Leon's 19th Brunetti case, "A Question of Belief," this is not to be.

While Brunetti and all of Venice may be suffering from the summer's heat, Leon's readers find this latest installment in a very successful series to be just what the doctor (or policeman) ordered: Leon at her best. A taut, tersely written tale that reaffirms our faith in this very popular author, whose talents and abilities in this genre keep producing winners!

Before Brunetti can take this family on vacation, needless to say, a murder is announced, to quote Miss Marple.

And, as usual with the Leon series, subplots support the storyline quite smartly. Inspector Vianello's aunt in mixed up with a charlatan horoscope guru; a corrupt judicial system is wrecking continued havoc and injustice as some judges become suspect; and the ramifications of the central murder are ever-widening.
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It's always a day brightener for me when Commissario Guido Brunetti & crew come for their annual visit. This 19th in the series is no exception, though not among my favorites. It's more about the miseries of living through a Venetian heatwave--and Leon does a masterful job of making us feel every muggy sweaty miserable degree of it--than it is about solving crimes and sharing the joys, quibbles and fabulous meals of Brunetti's family life.

This time Paola and the kids are away cooling off in the mountains and, of Paola's parents, only her mother makes an appearance, and a brief one at that. Which leaves this story pretty much to Brunetti, Ispettore Vianello and Signorina Elettra, with Patta contributing a couple of notable temper tantrums. As always, there are two cases. The major one centers on the murder of a gay civil servant who may or may not have been in cahoots with a bent judge; the secondary case involves a phony psychic who's bilking old ladies, among them Vianello's aunt. The story moves at a pace befitting enervating heat until, suddenly, we're only a few pages from the end and nothing's been solved and no one's been arrested. The end then comes quickly and is somewhat less than satisfying. I found myself wondering if Leon was herself nearly done in by a heatwave while writing this.

Because the lives of the characters in a Leon novel are as important to the stories as the crime solving, I always recommend reading her novels in as close to chronological order as you can get.
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"seamlessly blending straightforward descriptions of events, pointed moral lessons, and tightly-focused dramatic accounts, his historiography contains deep, and often pessimistic, insights into the workings of the human mind and the nature of power." Wikipedia on the historical writings of Publius Cornelius Tacitus.

Guido Brunetti -- whose austere view of Italian life, both public and private, underpins this remarkable series -- is reading Tacitus rather than Russian history. His books on Russian history are in the mountains with his vacationing family, while Brunetti swelters around Venice, returning home with a pizza to eat on his terrace "while drinking two beers and reading Tacitus, the bleakness of whose vision of politics was the only thing he could tolerate in this current state." (201)

As the Wikipedia quote suggests (oh come on, tell me you don't short-cut with it) Tacitus manages clarity of narrative and psychological insight while delivering a moral lesson.

So, too, does Donna Leon.

As other reviewers note, most of the loving and entertaining scenes of Brunetti/Falier family life are missing from this book. There are no luscious meals detailed from shopping through prep work, from serving to savoring, from second-helpings to dishwashing. Figs and prosciutto are all we get, and briefly. And yet it is faith in that family-life which constitutes the center holding Brunetti's cosmos intact. Early in the book we hear a shockingly frank rant from Paola about the power of belief over reason. Sparked by the sight of Brunetti's proposed reading on the Russian Revolution, Paola denounces her youthful political ideals in the most brutal yet of her recent self-fashionings:

"To think that I voted Communist.
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