The Golden Egg

by Donna Leon

Hardcover, 2013

Call number





Atlantic Monthly Press (2013), Edition: First Edition, 256 pages


At the request of his wife, Commissario Brunetti looks into the death of a deaf, mentally disabled man who worked at their dry-cleaners and uncovers a mystery when the man left no official records and his mother is reluctant to speak to him.

Media reviews

Le Monde (France)
Auf den Spuren von Commissario Brunetti entdeckt der Leser Venedig besser als mit jedem Touristenführer.
1 more
Mannheimer Morgen
Donna Leon ist noch genauer, filigraner und selbstironischer geworden: Sie spielt furios mit unseren Venedig-Klischees und mit ihren immer gleichen und doch jedes Mal etwas anderen Figuren.

User reviews

LibraryThing member thornton37814
Brunetti is put on an insignificant case regarding vending laws, but his wife Paola has a request for Brunetti. She learned that a deaf handicapped boy who had worked at the dry cleaners has died from an overdose of sleeping pills. She thinks it strange that no one has taken notice. Brunetti begins
Show More
looking into the boy's past and discovers that there is no record of his having ever been born and that there are none of the usual records to even show he exists. When his mother is questioned, she claims the papers were stolen in a burglary. Brunetti systematically works through his discoveries until he understands how the boy and his mother were able to survive with what appeared to be no source of income. I found this an interesting read, but it wasn't totally absorbing, and I wouldn't really classify it as a mystery in the traditional sense of the word. I prefer Brunetti when he's investigating a murder and traveling around the canals of Venice. I received an electronic galley of this book for review purposes from NetGalley.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Judiex
Good news: Commissario Guido Brunetti is back.
The story opens at dinner time in the Brunetti household where the family is having great fun making up a story worthy of an opera (or soap opera) about a picture on the wall and having a great time with words.
The main story revolves around a man
Show More
who sort of works at the neighborhood dry cleaners. I say “sort of” because he is usually seen standing in the back room folding clothes. The neighbor have been told he is deaf, dumb, and retarded and doesn’t interact with people. The next morning, the man had died. Paola, Guido’s wife, asks him to check into the death to see what could be done for him and his family. She feels both guilt and compassion since no one seems to have done much, if anything, for him while he was alive. (Guido barely remembers him, a strange admission for a police commissioner, since they have been to the shop numerous times over the years.)
He checks with the coroner and is told the death appeared to be suicide. He has swallowed a lot of sleeping pills (along with some hot chocolate and biscuits or cake), regurgitated some in his sleep, and died from choking. Brunetti and some others wonder why someone like him would commit suicide: He didn’t know any other life so why would he want to end his?
As part of his investigation, he begins to gather basic information about the man: His name (Davide Cavanella), his address, his family, etc. He immediately runs into a wall: There are no records for anyone with that name: No birth certificate. No baptism record. No school record. No medical records. He does locate his mother who is reluctant to talk with him or his associate and appears to lie when she answers the few questions to which she does respond.
Brunetti continues to work the case, which has more turns than Venice’s Grand Canal. The most shocking part is learning why Davide is in the condition he is. I was horrified at that point.
There are other surprises as well, but I was pleased at the ending.
The book has the usual political corruption though it is not as heavy as in previous books. His relationships with most of his co-workers are minimal, on the whole. There is just enough to avoid being repetitious or boring.
If you haven’t read a Commissario Brunetti book before, this would be a good place to start because the book is pretty much self-contained.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Kimaoverstreet
Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti series of police procedural novels, set in modern day Venice, offer well written insight into human behavior and political corruption. To me, the mysteries themselves are secondary to just spending some time with the Commissario with his intellectual and witty
Show More
insights. I think Leon could write a description of Brunetti doing something mundane, like shopping at a big box store, and it would still be delightful to read.

Brunetti investigates the seemingly accidental overdose of sleeping pills by a disabled man, and is troubled by the lack of any official record of the man’s existence. With neighbors unwilling to talk to the police, Brunetti sets to work to peel away the layers covering decades of secrets. Like most mystery series, this one would be best read in order but The Golden Egg would work as a first foray in to the series.
Show Less
LibraryThing member literaryrunner
Brunetti is back on the job in another terrific novel by Donna leon. After my dislike of her singleton novel, I was happily back in Venice with Guido and family. Leon has been getting darker and darker in her Brunetti series and this one is actually not about a murder, but about a strange death and
Show More
even stranger life. Secrets come unraveled in Leon's great prose and I finished the book longing for more.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Maya47Bob46
Like all the Brunetti books, this is billed as a mystery, but it is not so much as mystery as a meditation on language. It opens with the Brunetti family playing a game at dinner using language and ends a non-conversation with the suspect. In between the two is the death of a deaf mute man. I think
Show More
this is best Donna Leon is a while.
Her stories, which she said in a reading I went to, are triggered by things she reads in the paper, are unconventional mysterties. Yes, there is a police investigation, but it rarely ends in arrest. One is left instead to consider the consequenses of what happened and the suspect is left to live with (or in some cases not) the knowledge of what they did. The stories reflect the uncertainty of our time. We want certainty but often don't get it.
This is another beautifully craft book by Leon. I hope she keeps writing.
Show Less
LibraryThing member librarian1204
Thank you, Ms Leon, for the return of Brunetti. Different but the same. The family, the food, Venice, the fellow police are the same but the difference is the quest for answers to a case pushed at Brunetti by his wife. Very well done with a conclusion that will stay with the reader.
LibraryThing member ebyrne41
I had the pleasure recently of meeting and talking with Donna Leon at a book signing in Dubray Bookshop in Dublin, at which she described this novel as a "love letter to language". That just added to my desire to get started on it, which I did soon after. In this, her latest, Commissario Brunetti,
Show More
at the behest of his wife Paola, looks into the suspicious death of a deaf-mute man who may also have had mental issues. Of interest too of course is that no one seems to know much if anything about the man, who worked in their local dry cleaners for many years. So it becomes an investigation to discover who this man with no paper trail was and what were his circumstances. Without wanting to give too much away, this is not a conventional crime story but rather the story of a different sort of crime and the tragedy and injustice that can befall an individual born into the wrong circumstances.

The elements of the story the author is no doubt referring to when she called this book a "love letter to language" are the conversations that take place around the family table when the always interesting conversations involving Brunetti, Paola, Chiara and Raffi take place. These conversations, and indeed his family, to my mind we don't get enough of in these books; that is the one constant albeit lame criticism I make of this otherwise wonderful series. But always present to my great joy is the city of Venice, the food and the people, plus of course the insights into Italian society, politics and of course the infamous bureaucracy and the nature of things.

I wondered a bit about the inclusion of the parallel inquiry into a possible bribery case which the book started with, for thereafter it seemed to serve little purpose and fizzled out rather disappointingly.

While not the best of the Brunetti series, I can still heartily recommend it. Four stars out of five from me. Enjoy!
Show Less
LibraryThing member brangwinn
I love Donna Leon's Gommissario Guido Brunetti mysteries. I think she could write a book about a weekend with his family and I'd love it. All the characters have depth, and individual personalities. I have never figured out the answer to the mystery until the end. Another perfect story.
LibraryThing member cfk
This the best of the series if for no other reason than the surprising conclusion. Brunetti searches for meaning, identity and justice for a young man whose death may be either suicide or accident. Davide, a deaf and mentally handicapped 'young man', was a familiar sight in his neighborhood until
Show More
his sudden death, but his death certificate cannot be issued because he did not officially exist.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Rayaowen
Finally finished it. I kept putting the book down and forgetting to pick it up again. This is the end of the series for me.
LibraryThing member khiemstra631
The latest book in the Guido Brunetti series is as smooth as silk. A deaf mute middle-aged man, who everyone thought of as "a boy" dies in what appears to be a suicide. Uncomfortable with this explanation, Brunetti's wife Paola asks him to look into the matter. The investigation consumes a week or
Show More
his life and yields interesting results. The usual setting of Venice adds to the fascination of the book. The ending adds a surprising twist to the book and provides a perfect explanation to the title. Great fun!
Show Less
LibraryThing member tututhefirst
Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti series just keeps getting better. This is #22, and the quality is every bit as good as earlier volumes.  Set in glorious Venice, these stories have it all: beautiful scenery, a sense of the culture and daily lives of the inhabitants, well-developed and credible
Show More
characters, amusing dialogue, philosophical introspection,varied plots, government corruption, and scrumptious food scenes.

In The Golden Egg, Guido Brunetti's wife Paola comes to him with a request that he look into the death of a deaf-mute young man who worked at her dry cleaners.  No one seems to know anything about him. After asking preliminary questions, both Guido and Paola sense that something isn't right. There seems to be no legal record of this man's existence, and unless he can be proved to have existed, the body can't be buried.

This is a very subtle mystery.  Leon intertwines intrigue with compassion, despair with anger, investigative skills with family connections, religion with politics, hatred with ignorance.  It's not a fast paced police procedural.  Rather it's a measured, steady unearthing of facts, motivations, and secrets.  And always it's the mind and philosophy of Guido and Paola (a university professor) that flavors the stew.  I thought I had it figured out about half-way through the book, only to find at the end that I was off base a bit.

If you haven't read any of these, this one is easy to start with.  Each can stand alone, although they are especially enjoyable reading over the years to see how the characters and their relationships develop.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
The early novels in this series were marvellous, combining well-structured plots with fascinating depictions of life in Venice and an empathetic and very appealing central character. Brunetti remains a very engaging and likeable detective, and Venice continues to feature almost as a supporting
Show More
character, but Donna Leon seems to have lost the knack of creating, or at least sustaining, the reader's interest in her plot.

This novel surrounds the death of David, a deaf and dumb man who had 'worked' in a local launderatte, helping to fold and iron clothes, and occasionally make deliveries to nearby customers. He is found dead, after taking a subsantial overdose of tablets. The initial conclusion is that he committed suicide, or maybe even took the pills accidentally, believing that they were sweets. Egged on by his wife, Paola, Brunetti looks more deeply into the circumstances of the death and, as other incidents ensue, comes to believe that David was in fact murdered. Meanwhile, his awful boss, Vice-Quesore Patta, has Brunetti liaising with the local municipal law enforcement branch to pursue a minor chore at the behest of the city's mayor. In her earlier novels Ms Leon would have made both of these story lines sparkle in a way to entice the reader to race through the book, but now it became almost a burden.

Amazingly this was the twenty-second outing for Commissario Brunetti, but unless I encounter rave reviews of it, I doubt if I shall be spending much time on number twenty-three.
Show Less
LibraryThing member SamSattler
"The Golden Egg" serves as an introduction to me of the "Commissario Guido Brunetti Mysteries" and that means that I'm coming to the series very late and have no way to compare this 2013 novel to those that preceded it. That said, I will say that Brunetti is one of the more laid-back and likable
Show More
police detectives that I have run into in recent memory. Of course, his leisurely pace is largely due to the fact that he is headquartered in his native Venice, Italy, a city (and a country) that moves at a pace all its own.

Donna Leon's story is akin to the true "mysteries" that I used to read so much of in years past, and is nothing like the more violent detective fiction that I've been reading more recently. In Leon's story, when a deaf "boy" dies suddenly and Brunetti's wife is particularly touched by both his tragic life and by his death, the detective finds himself spending most of his working time trying to unravel the mystery of just whom Davide Castello really was and why he died. But really, there does not appear to be a whole lot of violent crime in Venice at the moment, so Brunetti doesn't feel overly guilty for devoting all of his time (and that of several of his colleagues) to this off-the-books case.

Guido Brunetti is surrounded by interesting characters, not the least of whom are his wife and two children, and this, along with the Venice setting, make me want to look at some of the earlier mysteries in the series - another series to add to my reading list.
Show Less
LibraryThing member DrLed
Synopsis: A deaf/mute man is found dead, an apparent suicide victim. Paola is concerned because she saw him working in a dry cleaners she frequents, but never really paid attention to him. She wonders if more contact with people would have made his life more bearable. When Brunetti investigates, he
Show More
finds that there is no record of this man, which is very unusual for document mad Italy. This also raises his curiosity, leading him into scandals involving wealthy families.
Review: This is classic Brunetti, with all of the examination of human motives, feelings, and values. The story is convoluted, as are most people's lives, and makes the reader wonder about where our empathy should leave off and suspicions should begin.
Show Less
LibraryThing member csayban
Question: How can a crime novel with no crime be interesting? Answer: in this case, it can't - or at least this one doesn't. I had read the first book in this series and it was good. Unfortunately, The Golden Egg moves at a sluggish pace and creates virtually no tension or even concern. Commissario
Show More
Brunetti devotes so much time to wandering around Venice and trying to solve a crime that doesn't exist, that it is difficult to imagine such a leisurely police force existing anywhere on earth. I wanted to stop reading on many occasions and the resolution at the end was simple moralizing with no consequences. This really read more like a Venetian travelogue then a crime novel. With so many better crime series, I won't be heading any deeper into this one.
Show Less
LibraryThing member sleahey
When a deaf and disabled young man is found dead, Brunetti and his wife realize that he was a lost soul whom nobody really knew. As a result, Brunetti determines to uncover the circumstances of his death, which leads him to meet many peripheral people from the victim's life.
LibraryThing member abbottthomas
No crime in the usual sense for Brunetti this time, but what turns out to being truly horrifying behaviour. His investigation into the apparently accidental death of a middle-aged deaf-mute is unimpeded by any demands of the Questura once he has cleared up a minor case of bribery for the
Show More
Vice-Questore: he solves this in a short conversation (in Veneziano, of course) with a cousin of one of his uniformed officers and is then free to travel the canals with Foa and use Elettra's hacking skills to his heart's content. It is fascinating that Brunetti finds himself almost as much an outsider as Patta when he talks to the neighbours of the dead man - omertà works at a city block level - but with patience and tact the terrible truth is exposed. The final twist, which ensures that moral justice prevails, is unexpected and very neat.

The book is slower moving than most of the series and might disappoint those readers hoping for a corpse in the Grand Canal so perhaps should be deferred until the Brunetti habit is firmly established.
Show Less
LibraryThing member smik
I've followed the novels of Donna Leon closely over the last two decades, but I don't think any of them have ever left me with such a feeling of sadness that THE GOLDEN EGG has.

Set in Venice, the novels have come to explore the issues of living in modern day Venice against the background of a
Show More
crime, often a murder. Some of those issues get passing mention in this novel such as corruption amongst city officials and the effects of cheap imports on the Venetian economy.

At the beginning of this novel we are not sure whether a murder has taken place.What concerns Brunetti is that there are no state records of this man despite his estimated age of over forty years. He is identified by a name on a piece of paper in his pocket, in conjunction with the record of where the ambulance was called to collect his body.

You'll have to ask yourself at the end of reading this novel whether a crime has been committed. What has happened certainly leaves Brunetti feeling that there should be some way of wreaking retribution.
Show Less
LibraryThing member cyderry
A young man is found dead apparently suicide but was it all it seemed? Paola is concerned because the man worked at the dry cleaners the Brunettis frequent but when Guido tries to found out more about him, there is nothing, really nothing - no papers, no certainty of who the man was. As Guido
Show More
delves deeper into the background of this "victim" he uncovers the sinister side of some of the wealthy families of Venice.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Kathy89
A very interesting mystery. A deaf mute mentally handicapped man is dead, believed to have committed suicide or accidental death. Because he worked in the laundry where Brunetti’s wife took his shirts, she asks him about it. Brundetti speaks to the coroner and learns that there is no paperwork on
Show More
this man. In today’s world that’s impossible and Brundetti starts investigating.
Show Less
LibraryThing member themulhern
A novel disguised as a police procedural. Full of office politics, meditations on Italian political corruption, and Venetian color. Even the ambulance is a boat. Unfortunately the ending is a bad one.
LibraryThing member jamespurcell
Guido is perplexed by the death of the neighborhood "boy" who is middleaged and can neither hear of speak. His curiosity drives him to continue and as questions arise; to finally investigate. Sordid family history is uncovered that suggests the victim was an outcast of a wealthy father. The real
Show More
source of the "boy's" sorrowful and wasted life is more complex than it first seems but The Commisario perseveres.
Show Less
LibraryThing member cbl_tn
At his wife Paola's urging, Venice’s Commissario Brunetti looks into the accidental death of the deaf and mentally disabled young man who helped at their dry cleaners. The more Brunetti learns (or doesn’t learn) about the man, the more disturbed he becomes. Brunetti wrestles with his conscience
Show More
as he considers the tactics he and his colleagues use to interrogate witnesses. When did he become so comfortable with lying? And why doesn’t it bother him more? Brunetti also reflects on the nuances of interpersonal relations among the Questura, and faces some unpleasant truths about his own relationships.

This is a solid entry in the series, but it isn’t the place for new readers to start. It’s best appreciated by readers who have a long familiarity with the characters. If you know your fairy tales and fables, the book’s title is a spoiler.
Show Less
LibraryThing member thornton37814
A "deaf and dumb" young man who worked at the dry cleaners died. Paola feels guilty she knows so little about him and urges Brunetti to learn more. When he begins probing, he discovers no official records of the man. He brings other colleagues at the Questura into this investigation. Patta assigned
Show More
him to look into a less significant matter which was easily resolved, but he makes it seem more difficult to gain a favor. If you are seeking a mystery for the sake of a mystery, this will probably leave you wanting. If you enjoy your visit with Brunetti and colleagues, you'll enjoy it. It took me a bit to grow used to the new narrator for this installment, but he did a fairly good job.
Show Less




0802121012 / 9780802121011
Page: 0.2479 seconds