The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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April 26, 2011

Drawing Conclusions

‘Beyond question,’ Rizzardi said in his most official voice, and at the sound of it, the mild squeak of discomfort with which Brunetti had listened to his previous evasions was suddenly transformed into a klaxon of doubt. Brunetti had no idea what the doctor was lying about, but he was now convinced that he was.
I have a little bit of a crush on Guido Brunetti, so a new book by Donna Leon is always something to celebrate. {Armand Gamache is giving him a little bit of competition, but there is still room for both of them in my heart.} Drawing Conclusions is the 20th book in the series; to me it has everything I loved about these books, while it seems a little quieter, simpler, sadder and sweeter.

Brunetti’s doubts come about when the medical examiner determines that Signora Altavilla, a retired schoolteacher, has died of a heart attack, an explanation that doesn’t seem to follow from the blood on the floor, her son’s strange emotions, or the odd things that Brunetti and Vianello find in a chest of drawers in the guest room. There seems to be no reason to investigate further, but when they do, what they find connects them to the volunteer work that the murdered woman has been doing with an organization that assists battered women and at a nursing home.

The way Brunetti comes into the story, and the way he exits, are well done, and in between, there is everything that I always look forward to. A few encounters with Signorina Elettra, a little bit of food {poor Guido only has one good meal, though...I wonder if he likes risotto primavera?}, wonderful descriptions of Venice….

As he walked alongside the Rio della Tetta, Brunetti was cheered, as always happened when he walked here, by the sight of the most beautiful paving stones in Venice. Of some color between pink and ivory, many of the stones were almost two metres long and a meter wide and gave an idea of what it must have been to walk in the city in its glory days. The palazzo on the other side of the canal, however, provided proof that those days were gone for ever. There was a way to recognize abandonment: the flaking dandruff of sun-blasted paint peeling from shutters; rusted stanchions holding flowerpots out of which trailed the dessicated sticks of flowers; and water-level gates hanging askew from their rust-rotten hinges, moss-covered steps leading up and into cavernous spaces where only a rat would venture.

…and, as always, the thing I hope for, a little bit of Paola’s other husband.

‘I oversaw his thesis. It was brilliant, about the use of the imagery of light in the late novels.’ Suddenly alert, Brunetti realized this was the moment crucial for intervention. If he did not act immediately, head her off, stop her, he was faced with a yet-to-be-determined period of time listening to what a student had written, under the direction of his lady wife, about the use of light imagery in the late novels of Henry James. Considering the fact that he had recently endured a meeting with Vice-Questore Guiseppe Patta and yesterday had had only three tramezzini — one stolen — for lunch, he decided that no time was lost.

Although I enjoyed every minute of this book, there's sometimes something a little bit forced, even a little repetitious, about some of the humor. I might not suggest that someone new to Donna Leon start with this book {here, instead?}, but I'll still and always look forward to my next quiet afternoon or two with the Brunettis.

Drawing Conclusions has just been published by Atlantic Monthly Press: I read a preview copy kindly provided by the publisher.

{image of Rio della Tetta found on Wikimedia Commons.}

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1 comment:

Ann said...

I've read round this series sporadically and I don't know why I haven't been more systematic in my approach, because I do enjoy the books very much. So, I'm grateful for the tip as to where I might start if I go back and give them a more thorough read. Thank you.

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