I was immediately entranced by Commissario Brunetti when I read about him in Donna Leon's first novel, Death in La Fenice. I see him as a rather more intelligent Inspector Clouseau, an untraditional detective who is committed to his wife and family, his job, and ultimately truth. (Although you could never say that Brunetti is a bumbling fool.)
But, what I really love about Donna Leon's novels are the way that she captures Venice. I feel as if I am walking through the streets, riding on the vaporettos, stepping from the gondolas or crossing the bridges. Her description is so spot on, you can almost smell the canals, or better yet, the ristorante.
Uniform Justice opens with a death at the San Martino military academy in Venice. Suicide or murder, no one is quite sure, although many political powers are all too willing to suggest the former and try to stop Brunetti's investigation into the later. Justice prevails, however, at least in determining the cause of death. And in a very unusual conclusion, it is left to the boy's father to mete out justice. Or, not.
I thought this novel was somehow gentle, and atmospheric, and I almost didn't write a post about it until I read Steven Berry's Venetian Betrayal. Like Dan Brown's DaVinci Code, without his utter disregard for scripture, Berry's novel is fast paced. I enjoyed the premise, that Alexander the Great had died with the formula for a healing medicine which several current day powers search for. But, like Gone Girl, after a certain point I tired of the drama; the action began to feel contrived simply to carry the story to its conclusion.
Given the choice between a fast paced thriller, and Donna Leon's gentle building of a case with an investigator of character, I'll take the later.
These two novels are what I've read so far for the Venice in February 2013 Challenge.