Investigating the lack of a building permit for Commissioner Brunetti's apartment, a young bureaucrat uncovers a frightening secret and promptly dies from an apparently accidental fall; investigating his death in turn, Brunetti is drawn into a world of drugs, loan-sharking, and corruption.
The violent death of possibly the only honest bureaucrat in the Ufficio Catasto (the land registry office) is at the centre of the plot but there is a sub-plot involving drug dealing and the associated deaths of young people which strikes at Brunetti's Achilles heel, his deep concern for his children. The son of the awful Vice Questore, Patta, seems involved in dealing leaving Brunetti with a conflict between his usual disdain for his chief's self-serving attitudes and his sympathy for a very worried father. The death of a young student of architecture, apparently from a drug overdose, leads to a perfect piece of writing from Leon describing the visit of the dead man's parents to Venice to identify the body. Thrown into this mix are very unpleasant money-lenders and scarcely less unpleasant descendants of a medieval Doge, arrogantly carrying the family name and nothing else.
This is one of those books where you feel you have got about half way through when you find that there are only a couple of short chapters left. Sometimes this is a reflection of the author's poor organisation or lack of imagination but Leon can't be accused of either. True, there are some loose ends but I was left with the impression that she was getting a lot of baggage off her chest concerning human failings and, having done so, she ended the story. The final pages allow Brunetti to exhibit uncharacteristic malice. I am sure he will be back to normal after some fegato alla Veneziana, a glass or two of Prosecco and a cuddle from Paola.
As an aside, we are told that, as well as enjoying Henry James, Paola is a fan of the Aubrey / Maturin stories of Patrick O'Brian.
I put this book down with a strong sense of unfinished business - there are several plot lines that are not tied up by the conclusion of the novel. Although that is all part of the bleak picture of corruption and futility that makes up Brunetti's world, it still left me feeling unsatisfied.
As events unfold, we learn of how things are "done" in Venice - pulling strings, calling in (and performing) favors, looking the other way. No one is exempt, including Brunetti. None of Leon's novels shy away from the corruption she sees in Venice's political and bureaucratic offices, but the mysteries in Friends in High Places stem directly from this corruption. Additionally, there is a small subplot about old families and the sometimes misplaced pride they have in themselves that I enjoyed.
Unlike most of Leon's novels I've read so far, this one ends with some justice, albeit not official justice, but perhaps a bit of human justice. Another good entry to the Brunetti canon.
Brunetti immediately begins to concentrate on who can be of assistance to him in clearing up this matter. Hearing nothing for several months, he is surprised to hear from Rossi who appears to be nervous about something that he wishes to discuss with the Commissario. Before they can meet, Rossi's body is found, apparently having fallen from a scaffolding. Brunetti is suspicious since on their short acquaintance, Rossi had shown definite signs of acrophobia.
Investigating the incident, leads Brunetti into a world of real estate corruption, drug abuse and loan-sharking. The apparent murder of two drug users links high officials to the drug world and shows what having Friends in High Places can do for you in Venice.
I love the characters from his family to his co-workers and friends. The ins and outs of trying to live in Venice/Italy, along with their customs and culture. Great setting and just a wonderful warm feeling.
The crimes and the criminals are painted as sad and human, and not just evil baddies. The victims are people, and this book had incredibly wrenching portrayals of the survivors, without being maudlin or exploitive.
The only problem is the ending. Leon never has a neat happy Hollywood ending with everything tied up. And that is fine, its like real life. But this time she seemed to not even really connect the crime to the suspects. We have some dead people, we have some ideas, and we have some who may have been the perpetrators or puppet masters, but nothing concrete. Because this isn't the newspaper, or real life, I do want a bit of entertainment type closure. But other than the ending it was one of her better ones. Can't wait for the next one.
9th in the Commisario Brunetti series, set in Venice, Italy.
Brunetti receives a visitor from the Officio Castato, the Registration Office, that controls permits and titles to all property in Venice. The visitor, Franco Rossi, tells a totally panicked Brunetti that because there is no record of the renovations that constitute his apartment to the building, the best he can hope for is a huge fine but the possibility exists that the apartment will be torn down.
Later, Brunetti receives a phone call from Rossi, clearly uneasy, who wants to talk with him in person. But before Brunetti can make the meeting, Rossi dies in a fall from a third floor window. It seems like an accident, but Brunetti, having witnessed the terror on Rossi’s face when confronted with heights, believes that Rossi has been murdered.
The main protagonist in this book is Italian corruption, specifically the way it plays out in Venice. In all her books, Leon is unsparing in her criticism of corruption in all dealings that Venetians have with officialdom; this is nowhere more true than in real estate, and she at least mentions it from time to time in other books. But this is a close look at a major way that illegal money flows into the hands of corrupt officials.
There is a subplot involving Patta that is very well done, showing yet another way that the justice system is corrupted and efforts by law enforcement officials frustrated.
The end of the book, which is the climax, not usual for Leon, is hair-raising.
As usual, the comprimario characters, such as Paola, Signorina Elettra, and Sgt. Vianello make large contributions to the strength of the plot.
Another excellent installment. Highly recommended.
The series continues to be strong.
That being said, I really enjoyed Anna Fields reading this 9th in the series. Again, Italian corruption is prominent. The society seems riddled with bribery and everyone turns a blind eye. One character even says, "This European stuff will be the death of us. Soon no one will even take bribes anymore." [paraphrase]
Guido himself is caught up in the corruption as he is told by an inspector that the plans and permissions for the addition to the building where his apartment is located cannot be found, and if the appropriate documents cannot be located then it will be impossible to verify that the construction (over 20 years old) met the historical guidelines and may have to be torn down.
I have really enjoyed every one of Leon's books. I recommend them highly.
Within days this same young man lies dead after an accidental fall from scaffolding. Or maybe not. Other deaths in that same area, clearly murders, may be connected though Brunetti doesn't know how. To find out he has to enter the dirty Venetian underworld where drug dealing, loan-sharking and governmental corruption all play a part in the answer.
In the meantime, Vice Questore Patta's son's involvement in drugs and absence from the absences leaves Brunetti in charge. He begins to unravel a loan scheme which leaves moneylenders rich in lands but paying very little in taxes. When the only potential witnesses end up dead in the same building from which the young man "fell" to his death, Brunetti is certain he's closing in.
I don't want to give away any more of the plot.
Brunetti’s investigation is more satisfying than many of the others in the series. With very few initial clues, he and his team manage to solve the crime. However, the plot is weighed down by the very detailed explanation of the bureaucracy of the Ufficio Catasto, the Guardia di Finanza, and other Venetian or Italian government agencies.