Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon

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Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: This is the eight novel in Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti series based in Venice. It's well-written with a good but not complex plot. Characterisation is subtle and although it can be read as a stand-alone novel there is a benefit to reading as part of the series.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: March 2000
Publisher: Arrow
ISBN: 0099269309

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In the early hours of the morning Commissario Guido Brunetti is called to his own police station where his wife is being held after deliberately breaking the window of a travel agency. Arranging sex tours is illegal in Italy but the acts the men perform abroad are not. It's therefore perfectly legal in Italy for a man to go to Thailand and rape a ten-year old girl. The sex tours are not so blatantly advertised these days, but for those who know what to look for in the advertising - "tolerant receptionists" and similar phrases - the tours are still available.

Paola Brunetti was incensed to read in a magazine that "A paedophile ... is doubtlessly one who loves children". Failing to see any legal way of stopping men taking the sex tours she decides that she will break the window of a Travel Agency that arranges the trips. She hopes that others will follow her example and make it more expensive to continue the tours than to stop.

Guido Brunetti is a conscientious policeman and in this case, the eighth in the series, his private and professional lives crash into each other. Whilst he might find what the sex tourists are doing abroad morally repugnant he knows that the men cannot be prosecuted in Italy. Equally he's in sympathy with his wife's view on the subject, but knows that what she is doing to highlight the problem is against the law. Reconciling these two view points puts strain on the relationship and Leon brings this out well. I was also amused by the general assumptions that Brunetti would have control over his wife's actions in the future, despite the fact that she is an intelligent and independent woman, wealthy in her own right. The chauvinism was brought out gently, almost teasingly.

I liked too the way that Leon showed the consequences of Paola's actions - not just on herself, but on her husband and in the wider community. How does a policeman cope with the fact that his wife has admitted to deliberately committing a criminal offence? How far dare he go in trying to protect her from the consequences of her actions? Does she want to be protected? How does Paola cope when she realises that what she did with the best of intentions might well have precipitated a murder? The writing is subtle and compelling.

Paedophilia plays only a peripheral part in the story. It is, if you like, the seed from which other events flower. Don't be put off the story because you don't like this subject - you will read little more of it than I have already described. The book is essentially about families and how they interact with each other and how they cope when they're under strain. It's about greed, corruption and infidelity.

This is the second book in the Brunetti series that I've read and I found the characters more rounded. I doubt that this is because the book is better written - I suspect that it's because these are books best read as part of a series rather than as stand-alone novels. Paola Brunetti was the most compelling character in the book for me - I could empathise with the struggle she had with her conscience and how the effects of what she did troubled her. The person with whom I had least empathy was Elettra - secretary to Brunetti's boss and the person who miraculously produces information which even the police can't access. There is supposed to be some spark between her and Brunetti but I'm afraid the power must have been turned off when I was reading. Brunetti I liked; he seemed human and fallible.

The plot is good. The revelation of who committed the murder does not come as a sudden turn in the story - we realise who it is but for some time it seems that they will not pay the price of the crime. The story is really about Brunetti's thought processes which unravel the mystery.

Venice is beautifully, lovingly described but then Leon has lived there for many years. I would have liked a map of the city to help me place events, but that's me being greedy.

The book's recommended and given four stars. If you do read it, have a think about the title of the book when you get to the end - it's very clever and very neat.

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Buy Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon at Amazon.com.

Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti Novels in Chronological Order


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