When one of his wife Paola's students comes to visit him, with a strange and vague interest in investigating the possibility of a pardon for a crime committed by her grandfather many years ago, Commissario Brunetti thinks little of it, beyond being attracted and intrigued by the girl's intelligence and moral seriousness. But when she is found dead, Claudia Leonardo is suddenly no longer simply Paola's student, but Brunetti's case. Claudia seems to have no discernible living family - her only familial relationship is with an elderly Austrian woman, who was the lover of her grandfather, but was not herself Claudia's grandmother. Brunetti is both intrigued and stunned by the extraordinary art collection the old woman keeps in her small, unprepossessing flat. When she in turn is found dead, the case seems to be about to open up long buried secrets of collaboration and the exploitation of Italian Jews during the war, secrets few in Italy are happy to explore.
So, it's 2012 and we went on a trip to Venice and I came back with a desire to visit this series again. I picked this one as it was the earliest of the three volumes available in my local library. And I enjoyed it very much! It has a lovely plot that worked very nicely. But mainly I enjoyed the fact that I know where Brunetti is wandering and when he gets on, for example, the Number One vaparetto to San Stae I am there with him knowing exactly what it's like. Although Leon paints a good picture of Venice, it's not as good as the one in my memory.
I will be reading more. In less than twelve years time I hope. No promises.
A young woman, one of Paola’s students, approaches Paola after class with an odd question: since Paola’s husband is a policeman, the student wants to know if there is any legal process by which a person who has already died can be declared innocent of a crime for which he was convicted and sentenced. Paola dutifully asks Guido; he, of course, can not answer so vague a question. Claudia, the young student, visits Brunetti at the Questura and gives him more details, enough so that Brunetti is intrigued, and begins privately inquiring about Claudia’s grandfather; Brunetti discovers that the grandfather was an antiquarian who is believed to have acquired priceless art treasures during the war from desperate people, mostly Jews, who sold them for a pittance in order to escape Europe. Before Brunetti can learn much more, Claudia is found murdered.
Leon almost always includes as an integral part of her plots some social issue, which she uses extremely well as a device to give added interest to the story and to illuminate a societal condition. The disappearance of art collections, both into the hands of the Nazis and into private ones as well, is a phenomenon that has reverberations to this day, as heirs of the original owners try to recover art works that were either stolen or coerced from their relatives during World War II. In addition, Leon gives glimpses, through Brunetti’s and Paola’s family histories, of some of the horrors of the Italian participation in World War II and the current national amnesia on the subject. It’s an absorbing matrix for the plot.
By this time, Leon’s fans are well acquainted with her recurring characters, who are the strongest elements of the books. Particularly well done is Brunetti’s family--Paola and his teen-age children, Raffi and Chiara. There is a particularly hilarious scene at the dinner table when the kids make the mistake of asking for cell phones. Vianello has finally received his promotion to Inspector, and Brunetti’s father-in-law, Count Falier, has another of his trade mark appearances.
The plot is very good and the writing is strong. It does take a little time to get the story going, but after that it’s absorbing if not a page-turner. “Justice” is served Italian style at the end; there is no such thing as a clean resolution in modern Venice.
While the book is not among Leon’s best installments in the series, it is still well worth reading if only for the history. Highly recommended.
When Paola posed the question, Guido hedged, stating that he had to know the nature of the crime before he could give any kind of valid answer. So Paola sent Claudia to visit Commissario Guido Brunetti at his office to pose the question herself. Claudia gives the barest facts and no names. Guido is intrigued but thinks no more of it until he finds that his newest murder victim is none other than Claudia Leonardo.
After tracking down those who may know why Claudia was killed, Guido discovers Nazi Collaborators with a stockpile of millions in art treasures. Interwoven is a minor tale of municipal corruption and bribery.
This one of absolutely fascinating up until the last few chapters. The ending was, IMO, a little anticlimactic but overall a very good read.
I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, in particular the beautiful descriptions of Venice. My wife and I have been to Venice twice and have fallen in love with it. The only sad part is that, as Donna Leon describes, it is collapsing under the weight of its own "tourismus." I highly recommend both this book and visiting Venice.
I enjoyed this one a bit more than some of the other installments in the series because of Paola’s contribution. She knew the murder victim and her insights were helpful to her husband as he tried to make sense of the case. I’m also fond of mysteries that involve art or libraries, and this one had both. I wasn’t as fond of the new narrator for the audio version. He mispronounced Chiara’s name throughout the book. It looks like this might have been a one-off for this narrator. Maybe the regular narrator couldn’t fit this one into his schedule.