The World of Venice

Jan Morris

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My dream trip. My traveling days are done, but if I had just one more trip in me, it would be to Venice. My first glimpse of the city was through an old movie called Dangerous Beauty about the famous literary courtesan Veronica Franco. The story was interesting, but even more were the sights of the city.

I fell in love with La Serenissima and have read everything I could get my hands on, fiction and non-fiction. This is one of the best non-fiction titles I have read. From the history to the story of uninhabited islets, the book covers every aspect of this great city. Reading this book gives an idea of what it means to live in Venice.

Sigh.

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Death in a Strange Country

Donna Leon

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I love Donna Leon and love Det. Brunetti. He is so human, and the glimpses we get of his family life serve to make him a well-rounded character. These glimpses grow as the series continues. If I were rich, I’d buy all the books at the $9.99 price the publishers charge. As it is, I have to wait for a copy to show up for $1.99 and snap it up. As a result I’ve read the books wildly out of order, but that has done nothing to lessen my enjoyment. Reading the earlier books serves to make clear how much the character has grown over time. What has not lessened is my love of  Venice and the views of it I have through these books. They just get better and better with time.

Death a La Fenice

Donna Leon

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This is the first time I’ve read the one that started them all. I can’t remember when I read my first Commissario Brunetti mystery, but I loved them from the start. First and foremost, they are set in Venice and La Serenissima is most definitely a presence. From the vaporetti to the feral cats, Leon captures the essence of the city until you can almost smell the sea.

The working out of the mystery is done without the help of his superior, almost against his wishes. His boss would prefer to bring the case to a quick close, place the blame on some foreigner, and get it out of the papers before it hurts the tourist season. Brunetti is more interested in finding the truth, no matter how unpleasant, and he’s not going to be stopped by something as minor as his superior’s opposition. Fortunately, he has the support of his peers and underlings to help him and his many connections in all strata of Venetian society.

The tropes I love are in place from the very beginning, and this novel does a fine job of launching the series: Brunetti’s clueless boss, his conflict over his wife’s aristocratic background, and his refusal to give up until he ferrets out the truth.

Uniform Justice

Donna Leon

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By now I’ve read several of Donna Leon’s mysteries featuring Commissario Brunetti, the Venetian detective. I first started reading them because Venice is my dream trip. I read everything I can get my hands on that feature Venice. Of all Leon’s books I’ve read, this is the best. Dottore Brunetti’s dogged persistence, aided by Signorina Elettra’s magic fingers on the computer make it possible for him to get within closing distance of the truth about the death of a young cadet in a very prestigious military academy. His own knowledge of his teen-age son makes it possible to understand the attitudes of the cadets. And yet, he is still left with the ambiguous feelings that have been growing in him over the past few books. What is truth? How can justice be best served? How much longer can he do this?

A Noble Radiance

Donna Leon

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Venice is my dream trip, so I was happy to find this mystery series. The detective is a Venetian police detective who battle the incompetence of his superiors as much as the criminals. I love the series for the glimpses of Venice, its people, and Venetian culture. I’m willing to overlook the mistakes the author makes, such as a medical examiner who decides a corpse was a male based on the length of the bones, and the difference between a robbery and a burglary. These errors really don’t matter in the larger context of the story. This is one mystery where I believed I had spotted the killer. I was right, but for the wrong reasons. Altogether a very satisfying read.