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Death in a Strange Country (Commissario Guido Brunetti Mysteries) Paperback – December 30, 2008
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From Kirkus Reviews
Something different for Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti, whose first case (Death at La Fenice, 1992) so expertly resurrected the closed-circle whodunit. This time, the murder of Sgt. Michael Foster, public health inspector at the American military hospital at Vicenza, produces such a pronounced lack of reaction--Brunetti's officious boss Patti insists it be written off as a mugging; somebody plants cocaine in Foster's quarters in the hope of heading off further questions; even Foster's lover and commanding officer insists she has no idea why he's been killed--that the fix is clearly in with either the American military or the Italian police. Patti pulls Brunetti off the case to work a burglary from a Grand Canal palazzo, but that--and more sinister high-level skullduggery--are predictably tied in too. No whodunit, but a measured, thoughtful conspiracy investigation that goes a long way toward extending Leon's range. This is definitely an author to watch. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Intriguing plot Venice looms large as a well-painted backdrop. Its damp, crumbling beauty and tourist-mobbed sites are as vivid in Leon’s depiction as the rich tang of espresso boiling over.” Publishers Weekly
What makes Leon’s work especially unnerving is the sense that corruption is a continuing process. . . . The characters of Brunetti and his family continue to deepen throughout this series.” The Times (UK)
This series has become one of the adornments of current crime fiction. A gem.”
The Scotsman (UK)
Top Customer Reviews
Brunetti is walking home through "battalions of ravaging tourists who centered their attacks on the area around San Marcos. Each year it grew harder to have patience with them, to put up with their stop-and-go walking, with their insistence on walking three abreast through even the narrowest calles. There were times when he wanted to scream at them, even push them aside, but he contented himself by taking out all of his aggressions through the single expedient of refusing to stop, or in any way alter his course, in order to allow them a photo opportunity. Because of this, he was sure that his body, back and elbow appeared in hundreds of photos and videos. He sometimes contemplated the disappointed Germans looking at their summer videos during the violence of the North Sea storm as they watched a purposeful, dark-suited Italian walk in front of Tante Gerda or an Onkel Franz, blurring, if only for a moment the lederhosen-clad tourists" with what was probably the only real Italian they would see during their stay.
An American soldier, Sgt. Michael Foster, an American public health inspector at the American military hospital in Vicenza, has been found floating in one of the Venetian canals. In an act of true heroism, two policemen jump in the water - the water being so dirty, hence the heroism - and drag him out. Brunetti's superior would like nothing better than to have the case buried, because the idea of an American being killed in Venice would ruin the tourist trade. Brunetti purposefully manipulates his boss into thinking the murder might have been committed elsewhere - must think of tourism, of course - so he can be authorized to travel to the man's post and investigate. An army captain, Dr. Peters, a woman doctor, who had come to Venice to identify the body in the morgue, had vomited from what Brunetti thought was from fear, when she saw how the man had been killed, by a knife plunging directly through the ribs into the heart. He suspects something is rather odd about this case, especially when he finds some cocaine that was not well hidden in the dead soldier's apartment, apparently after it had been thoroughly searched by the military authorities. The case becomes more complicated as both he and the Carabinieri major are politely warned off the case after they discover a connection between the dead soldier, a sick boy, contracts for the disposal of toxic waste, Brunetti's father-in-law, and the ostensible suicide by heroin overdose of Dr. Peters, not to mention the theft of some famous paintings from a prominent businessman.
As with many of her other books, you are left at the end deeply saddened by the corruption, the illicit use of power and its effect on Brunetti, who, despite all, struggles on trying to stay an honest cop. He is a wonderful character.
The story in this novel revolves around two murder mysteries and a robbery, all of which Brunetti is assigned to solve. A young man, probably an American, is found dead floating in the water of a Venice canal. He may, or may not, be the victim of a robbery. Later, a young American doctor at a U.S. Army base outside a town near Venice is found dead in her quarters, dead of a heroin overdose. Finally, the Venice palace of a Milano industrialist is burgled and its owner sent to the hospital from a beating. In all three cases, Brunetti smells a story that would rule out the obvious explanation. His investigation of all these mysteries is hemmed in by his boss, a feckless and lazy Sicilian with a fancy title who is interested only in pleasing the powers that be and taking credit for any discoveries made by defying his orders.
Donna Leon has lived in Venice for twenty-five years. Her books have been translated into many languages — but not, at her request, into Italian. The true subject of Death in a Strange Country is corruption. Leon’s depiction of Italian society and especially the Italian criminal justice system is unsparing. Little wonder that she has resisted the translation of her novels into the local language!