The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon

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The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon

Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Brunetti investigates a cold case which might not be a crime at all, but uncovers a dark story
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304/8h10m Date: April 2016
Publisher: William Heinemann
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785150760

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Commissario Guido Brunetti and his wife Paula were guests at a dinner party at his parents-in-law's palazzo. They're there as 'local colour' to tempt those with deep pockets to support a Venetian charity, but Brunetti finds himself lured into investigating a cold case at the request of the Grand Contessa Lando-Continui, a friend of Paola's mother. Fifteen years ago the contessa's teenage granddaughter, Manuela, was rescued from a canal. Although she lived, it was with severe brain damage: an adolescent went into the canal, but it was a child who came out. Now aged thirty she has the mental age of a six year old: a sweet and engaging one, but a six year old nevertheless. The Contessa is getting old: before she dies she'd like closure on the case. She'd like to know what happened. It won't help her granddaughter who is trapped in perpetual childhood, but she feels that it will help her.

It might be, of course, that there is no crime here at all: Manuela could have fallen into the canal. She might have been under the influence of drink or drugs - but Manuela had a phobia about water, struggling even to walk alongside the Venetian canals. It's extremely unlikely that she would have put herself into a position where she could accidentally fall into the water. The man who rescued her is of little use as a witness: he's known locally as a drunkard and on the morning after the rescue he had no recollection of what had happened, asked Manuela's grandmother for money and wasn't sober for a month. There was little in the way of an investigation at the time: the hands of the police were tied to some extent as the only other witness - the victim herself - had no memory of what had happened nor any appreciation of her current mental state.

On the home front Brunetti's daughter, Ciara, is worried. She and her friends are being pestered by one of the 'new Africans' who accosts them as they come out of school and demands money. Brunetti's shocked by his atavistic response to the thought that any man would put a restraining hand on his daughter's arm and surprised that he's unaware that there are new Africans in the city.

As ever with Donna Leon she taps into current concerns and brings them to life. The city's been almost constantly plagued by the problem of historical conservation and preservation and whilst Venice is awash with tourists there's the regular problem of the availability of affordable housing for those born and brought up in the city. That's a problem that's exacerbated too by the waves of migrants coming into the city. The Ethiopian migrants - the vu cumprà as they are known - have largely been accepted and to some extent assimilated into the city, but now there are new migrants who seem more threatening.

The story is a good one: it begins almost gently as Brunetti seems to be wasting time on the case and has to trick his boss at the Questura into getting a magistrate to sanction the investigation. Brunetti plays Patta like a true Venetian: it was a pleasure to watch. All the characters come to life well, although I must confess that I had an advantage here. Rather than reading the book I listened to an audio download, which I bought myself, narrated by David Rintoul. He's grabbed the recent Brunetti books and made them his own: his range of voices is excellent and there's no bleed through between one and the other. I was never in any doubt as to who was speaking and I'd gladly listen to a many more.

The book would read reasonably well as a standalone, but you will probably get more out of it if you know some of the background of the regular characters. There's no need to go back to the very beginning and there's no great disadvantage to reading the books out of order as there are no spoilers for earlier books. This is the twenty-fifth book in the Brunetti series and Leon is still managing to keep them fresh.

If you would like to read the books in order, you'll find a list here.

Buy The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon at Amazon You could get a free audio download of The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon at Amazon.com.


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