A Question of Belief by Donna Leon

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A Question of Belief by Donna Leon

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The nineteenth Commissario Brunetti novel shows that the series is exhibiting no signs of tiredness. This time we look at corruption in the Courthouse and the gullibility of old ladies. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 273/9h33m Date: April 2010
Publisher: William Heineman
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0434020201

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It was hot, even for Venice in summer, and Commissario Guido Brunetti was determined to escape from the city and spend some time with the family in the mountains. He dreamed of needing to wear a sweater, of sleeping under an eiderdown and sitting in front of a fire. Ispettore Lorenzo Vianello was worried about something else. His aunt was obsessed by horoscopes and had been withdrawing large amounts of money from the family business. At his wits' end he consulted Brunetti and asked his permission to have officers trail his aunt. The 'investigation' lead them to Stefano Gorini, but why was Vianello's aunt giving him large amounts of money?

At about the same time Brunetti was visited by a friend who worked at the commune. He's concerned that there's some illegality going on at the Courthouse involving Judge Luisa Coltellini and an usher, Araldo Fontana. Cases are being delayed, always to the benefit of one party to the case. He'd like Brunetti to look into it. It didn't seem unreasonable to ask Signorina Elettra to find out what she could whilst he was on his holiday, but he didn't even reach his destination before he was recalled: there had been a murder. The body of Araldo Fontana had been found near his home. Everyone spoke of him as being a good man, but why had he been killed and did this have anything to do with the 'delays' at the courthouse?

One of Donna Leon's great skills is that she can start off with almost nothing, certainly no obvious criminality, and pull the reader in. Partly it's down to the fact that Leon is a close observer of how life is lived in Venice and it's almost impossible not to feel that you're there. It's not the Venice of the tourists either, but the real city, where people live and work. The city's as much a character as any of those who speak. In this nineteenth book in the series it's Brunetti who carries the story. Leon's skillful here too: she doesn't rely on any of the usual stereotypes for fictional detectives. Brunetti doesn't drink to excess, womanise or have a dysfunctional personal life: he's a well-balanced man from a happy family, with good intentions who's well aware of the failings of government at every level in Italy. He's a breath of fresh air.

The plot is good too, with a timely look at those who prey on the gullible and at how widespread their approaches are. It's easy to see how people, particularly the old and the lonely, are drawn in and frightening to see how little protection there is for them. There are similarities between this and the corruption at the courthouse where greed and manipulation have been taken to new levels.

Rather than read the book I listened to an audio download (which I bought myself) and which was narrated by David Colacci. I found his voice a little strange at first, having recently listened to Brunetti books narrated by David Rintoul, but it seemed irrational not to enjoy a book by an American author narrated by an American who is most probably of Italian descent and once I got used to the difference it was thoroughly enjoyable. Colacci has a good range of voices and I was never in any doubt about who was speaking.

Most of the Brunetti books will read as standalones, although you do get more from them if you read them in chronological order. There's no riveting continuous storyline which you'll be desperate to follow, but it does give a good feeling of continuity.

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Buy A Question of Belief by Donna Leon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Question of Belief by Donna Leon at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A Question of Belief by Donna Leon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Question of Belief by Donna Leon at Amazon.com.


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