It's been a very long time since I've read a novel by Donna Leon. For a while there I read every novel in the Brunetti series when it was released. At some stage I missed one, and suddenly Leon had written five more books without me noticing. So it was good to re-acquaint myself with the series and realise that Leon can still give me reading pleasure.
Brunetti is a refreshingly uncomplicated detective. He's not a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, he doesn't suffer from the effects of psychological trauma and his personal relationships don't interfere with his ability to investigate crime. Instead, he's happily married to the lovely Paola, he has a generally good relationship with his children, he gets along well with his work colleagues and manages his stupid and unpleasant boss with aplomb. He's also interesting, well-read, and has a taste (which I share) for good food.
Leon writes novels which are less standard police procedurals and more reflections on human nature, discussions of ethical dilemmas, commentaries on corruption and inefficiency in the Italian bureacracy and political system and love letters to Leon's adopted home, Venice. She writes lucid prose and creates interesting and memorable characters. As with all crime fiction, readers of her novels benefit from an ability to suspend disbelief and accept a certain level of implausibility in the narrative. In this novel Leon has Brunetti - and other characters for that matter - do things which are not very believable, but as a seasoned reader of crime fiction I could glide over that particular issue without too much difficulty. All in all, it was great to be back in Venice with Guido Brunetti, walking through the city with him and wishing I was sharing his delicious meals. Closer to 3-1/2 stars than 4 stars, but still a most enjoyable read.