February 10, 2013

Uniform Justice by Donna Leon



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.

16 comments:

  1. I'm glad that we have these books in common! :)

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    1. We have more than this one in common! :o

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  2. I'm hoping to get a copy of Death in a Strange Country (#2 in the Guido Brunetti series) at my library. Have you read all the others prior to Uniform Justice, which I see is #12? If not, do you feel you missed any back story or read any spoilers to the earlier works?

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    1. I was wondering the same thing, Les, about needing to read them in a certain order. But once you know he's marred to Paola, with her wealthy and intelligent background, I don't think there's any problem. I grabbed this one off the library shelf because they didn't have the second or third so I abandoned the idea of going in order. It was a bit of a strain, though, reading about the military mindset at the academy wit Daniel in boot camp. Yet he's doing very well for which I'm so grateful.

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    2. Oh, that's good to know.--that Daniel is doing well and that I don't need to read these in order. I have quite a few in the series (in the small mass market paperback size), but was a little concerned about reading them in order. I'll pack one in my bag to take to the mountains this week. I just finished Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn) and have started in on Broken Harbor (Tana French), but I have a feeling I'll need one or two more books for Rod's and my little get-away. Who knows. We could get snowed in! Wouldn't that be grand?!

      Again, I'm so happy to hear that all goes well for Daniel. And you.

      xoxo

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    3. Les, thank you so much for your good thoughts toward me and Daniel. With God and the encouragement of my friends this is not as hard as I thought it was going to be.

      I'm so happy you and Rod can get away! It sounds like the perfect respite (and Valentine's Day celebration)! I think Donna Leon novel would be idea to take with you, as they're entertaining yet not disturbing or heavy. (Can I say that about murder mysteries? Isn't that an oxymoron? Somehow, though, she keeps much of the gruesome stuff away from the reader.) I haven't read Sharp Objects, and you probably know I'm stilll mad at Tana French for not 'properly' finishing Into the Woods. Or whatever novel it was where she left me hanging with an unresolved plot. :)

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  3. I will add these series to my wishlist for next year. For now, I am in the middle of writing my first post about a book for the Venice challenge (since I wrote a post about a beautiful BBC documentary on Vivaldi's women) I LOVE our challenge! :)

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    1. There doesn't seem to be a lot of participants this year, but I love it, too, Ally. Looking forward to your thoughts on Vivaldi's women! Some of my favorite books for 2012 were from our challenge. Thanks for thinking of it. xoxo

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  4. I've read just two of her books and for me Venice was the star in both, followed by Brunetti and then the food!

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    1. I agree! The vicarious trip to Venice, without ever leaving home, is one of the marvelous aspects of reading Donna Leon's books.

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  5. Donna Leon is one of my favourite crime writers, especially for the interplay between Guido, Paola and the children. May I be so bold a to suggest that you may enjoy A Taste of Venice: At Table with Brunetti by Roberta Pianaro and Donna Leon. It is a collection of Venetian recipes, including many of the dishes that Paola cooks through the series, interspersed with extracts from the book, focusing on the food. It's a lovely book.

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    1. I loved the interplay between Guida and Paola, too. Another fictional couple which is drawn so well is Robert Parker's Spenser and his love, Susan. Thank you so much for recommending the cookbook! I'll go look it up, as I love to cook, and I'd love some Venetian recipes.

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  6. I've read one of Leon's books and liked the settung and characters. Have fun with the challenge.

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  7. I've tried but am not enamoured by this writer, although my wife loves this type of read.

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  8. I am working my way thought Leon's series, slowly. I am only up to five I think.
    But I agree..for me it is very much about how well she captures Venice.

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  9. I'm currently in the middle of the 3rd Brunetti book, and I too love the way Leon takes me to Venice. And the slow build of solving the case--refreshing. I wonder though, how much of her "this is how Italians are/Italy is" is accurate.

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