RogerBW's Blog

A Sea of Troubles, Donna Leon 28 January 2014

The tenth book in Leon's Commissario Brunetti series, as with other series entries I've been reading lately, offers more of the same: descriptions of the seamy underside of Venice interspersed with lightweight police work.

The constant background of incompetence and corruption does rather grind down the regular reader, and the lack of good honest clues and detective-story puzzle means that the book doesn't really get going until about two-thirds of the way through -- and just as the detection is getting interesting, it's cut short by an action sequence aboard boats in a storm, for much of which Brunetti isn't even present.

This time the setting is mostly Pellestrina, an island south of Venice where the main economy is fishing. As always with Leon, there's lots and lots of detail; Leon has been living in Venice for over thirty years and apparently knows her stuff, though I'm ignorant enough that I might well not spot errors anyway. A fisherman and his son are murdered, and Brunetti faces a wall of silence while trying to investigate.

Without a puzzle for the reader to solve -- the information that helps make things even slightly clear isn't given until quite late on -- all that's really left is the description. It's all very well as far as description goes, but it's more a narrated tourist guide than a story.

The slow start is an ongoing problem for this series, but I'll probably read more of them all the same.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:35pm on 28 January 2014

    My parents and I have been to Venice for a week and the great thing about these books is spotting where you've been. The scenic detail Leon gives holds up very well, the only part of it that annoys me is her use of US English eg. terms and names.

    For my parents the above is enough, but I have to agree about the lack of clues for the reader. Also the fact that most of the time the guilty party isn't fully brought to justice due to Italian corruption and Brunetti only gets a pyrric victory becomes annoying the more novels you read. And I'm only on number 4.

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