I have read @ ten of Donna Leon's books and this review reflects my opinion of most of them. Some have a slightly better story, a little more engaging than others, but for the most part, the books are about Brunetti, and about Venezia, and the Italian people.
Commissario Guido Brunetti is a deep and interesting character, but he is unlike most detectives you’ll find in American mystery books. Brunetti solves crimes with his wits, and all the while deals with crooked politicians; his independent and wonderful wife; and his 2 children, who come complete with the normal teenage problems. Throughout the books, though, Brunetti never loses sight of what is important—food. Leon’s books are as much a culinary delight as a mystery lover’s passion. As I read, I find myself yearning to pop the cork on a bottle of Prosecco and mix up a plate of farfalle with a creamy wild mushroom sauce.
Some have argued that the mystery in Leon’s books isn’t that captivating. I won’t disagree with that, but the characterization and the setting are so wonderful it makes up for it. Signorina Elettra is one of the best characters I’ve come across in books. She adds more flavor to Leon’s books than a sprig of freshly picked lemon basil to a bowl of pasta.
What seals it for me, though, are Leon’s descriptions of Venice, or Venezia. What she describes is so real you will feel as if you’re strolling in Piazza San Marco, or enjoying a brioche at a cafe near the Hotel Danieli. She brings a fresh perspective to plots that have been done before, and her insight into the Italian people is so perfect, all I can do is laugh…and enjoy. If you haven’t read Leon before, and if you’re fond of Italy or the Italian people, rush out and get one of her books. You’ll be glad you did.