Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Trio of Brunetti- finishing the series

Last week I posted a review of the latest book in the wonderful Commissario Brunetti series, Beastly Things, by Donna Leon. I indicated that I didn't think it was one of Ms. Leon's better offerings. My disappointment in that book did not deter me from a marathon of finishing several of the previous episodes I'd missed along the way. These are exceptionally well-written mysteries with a cast of characters who have grown as the series progressed. Any one who has read several can feel confident in picking up one of these and experience that warmth that comes from visiting with old friends. I was fortunate enough to be able to obtain all three of the ones I hadn't read in audio to get me through a very stressful two week period of choir practice, lenten baking, etc etc etc. Those daily swims where I could settle back, exercise and listen to a good story, kept me sane. Please don't let my lack of enthusiasm for #21 keep you from enjoying 1-20. I've now finished the whole series and will gladly read them all again. Here's a re-cap of the three that completed the set.
Publisher-Format: audio- AudioGo,Kingston RI 2011, 9 hrs
Narrator: Stephen Crossley
Subject:  Nazi crimes, art theft, murder
Setting: Venice
Series: Commissario Brunetti
Genre: police procedural mysteries
Source: public library

When one of Paola Brunetti's students approaches her to enlist her assistance in getting Brunetti to obtain a pardon for her long dead grandfather's crime, Guido finds himself digging into Nazi art thefts during World War II, and ultimately into the young student's murder.  As usual, the trail of inquiry into the mystery leads to more mysteries, more murder, and the constant dilemma of dealing with corrupt authorities both in the past and in this case.  Classic's well plotted, with lots of involvement by all the principles.

 Publisher/Format:AudioGo,Kingston RI 2011,8 hrs,8 mns
Narrator: David Colacci
Subject: murder - selling contaminated fish/clams
Setting: Venice, Pellestrina
Series: Commissario Brunetti
Genre: police procedural mysteries
Source: public library

Here, once again, Leon has Brunetti confronting corruption not only of officials, but of his beloved city, its many canals, and calles, and the seafood that comes from those waters.  Brunetti and Vianello are called to Pellestrina, a tiny fishing village on the edge of the Adriatic Sea across the Laguna from Venice, to investigate the murders of two fisherman whose boat exploded and sank in the harbor, taking them down with the boat.  Once again, Brunetti uses his family ties, and childhood friends to gain information.
But it is from Signoria Eletra that he gains most of his clues, and Brunetti is growing ever more uncomfortable with the secretary's underworld and underground web of acquaintances she uses to gather these for Brunetti.
When Sra Electra "goes on vacation" to visit her aunt in Pellestrina, another whole dimension of intrigue and violence  is added to these stories, and Brunetti must face his latent feelings about the Signorina.

A real cliff-hangar, probably one of the most action packed of Leon's stories.  If you can only read one or two, I'd put this one on the list.

Alternate Title: Quietly in Their Sleep
Publisher/Format: Blackstone Audio Books, 2000,  8 hrs, 36 min
Narrator:  Anna Fields
Subject: murder, kidnapping, Catholic Church, pedophilia, Opus Dei
Setting: Venice
Series: Commissario Brunetti
Genre: police procedural mysteries
Source: public library

This one was fascinating, particularly since I was finishing listening to it on Good Friday as I drove to Church!  Brunetti's kids, Raffi and Chiara are extremely vocal in this story about their lack of enthusiasm for religion classes and in particular for the priest who is teaching them.  When Raffi finally confides to his father that the good padre has been at least verbally indiscrete with many of his female penitents, Brunetti's fatherly instincts almost overrule his legal ones.  At the same time, he is trying to determine if there is any merit to a claim by one of the nuns (now an ex-nun) who worked at the nursing home where his demented mother is being cared for, that several of the patients may have been assisted to their heavenly reward earlier than nature intended.  Leon does an excellent job of weaving innuendo with fact, of having Brunetti and Vianello tracking down the truth of her allegations.  

 Paola's mother, the Contessa Donatella Falier, provides us with some of the most amusing dialogue this series has produced, but it is ultimately good police work by Brunetti, Vianello and Sra Electra that gives  Paola the ammunition she needs to "take care of things."   The ending is worth every minute you spend with the book.

 One last note about audios - as you can see, each of these is narrated by a different reader.  In the previous editions I've listened to, David Colacci has been the narrator, and I vastly prefer his renditions.  He has a deep and rich voice that allows the dialect of the Italian and Venetian phrases that are so prevalent in Leon's works to ring true.  Anna Fields does an admirable job also, but somehow, I really prefer the masculine narrator for these.  Stephen Crossley is an outstanding narrator, but his distinctly upper crust British accent just doesn't cut it for these stories.  I had a hard time listening to that one, and at one point decided if the print version was readily available, I'd grab that instead.  By the time I got around to looking for print, I'd just about finished the audio.  I noticed that Leon has returned to David Colacci for the newest one.


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