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About Face - Donna Leon

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2 Reviews

Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Donna Leon / Paperback / 336 Pages / Book is published 2010-03-04 by Arrow Books Ltd

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    2 Reviews
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      26.10.2011 17:44
      Very helpful



      Average Detective story


      I have been struggling a little with my concentration lately with the books I've been reading. So I decided to go back to an old favourite author of mine and see if this improved the situations. Especially as it has been nearly two years since I read my last book from this author.

      ==About the author:==

      Donna Leon was born in America in 1942. However she now lives in the place she writes most successfully about i.e. Venice. She is most associated with her Detective Commissario Brunetti, who she has produced 20 stories about. The book I am about to review is the 18th of these and was written in 2009.

      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      Commissario Guildo Brunetti is surprised when he is visited by Maggior Filippo a member of the Carabinieri from the city of Marghera. The two different forces of order in Italy don't as a rule mix well and Brunetti is impressed by the honesty of the man and agrees to help him with an investigation.

      As the dead man was a local to Venice who had got caught up in supplying trucks for hazardous waste, after his business started to fail he plumbed for this lucrative trade that asked few questions and paid in cash. Now the Carabinieri are keen to use Brunetti's local knowledge to try and identify his killer. And for once an air of cooperation has been established between the two men, Brunetti is hopeful he can aid in the capture of this man's killers.

      Meanwhile Brunetti attends a Dinner hosted by his influential parents-in-law. These parties he usually dislikes and finds them dull but on this occasion his interest is captured by the wife Franca Marinello of a man who his father-in-law is thinking of going into partnership with. He finds her fascinating as she shares his passion for literature. As a result of this meal he is asked to do some background on this businessman to find out if he too can be trusted.

      ==My thoughts on the book:==

      I thought this was a very average Detective novel. Which was very disappointing especially as I am a big fan of this series of books. Admittedly it had been a long time since my last Brunetti book but I just found so little happened in the first half of the book. I kept expecting something exciting to happen but it did not for what seemed ages and until I had practically given up on the story.

      The key reason I stuck with the book other than the hope it would improve is the author's writing style. I have always found this excellent and this book was no different. I find her descriptions particularly of Venice as superb and I feel through her writing that I have a real feel for the place and its people. Before reading and learning all about the culture of the place it would be a place I wouldn't consider but now it is one of the main places I would like to visit.

      And despite the author not been brought up in the city, she seems to have a real understanding of the important factors within its society. I feel she understands and explains expertly what it is like to live here with all specific problems.

      In this book the author returns to what for me is one of her real frustrations with Venetian life namely the Environment. The subject of which is a key factor in several of her books. In this one she talks about damaging waste being transported and dumped because it is a way for some to make a quick buck and so it attracts criminals. The author is a keen advocate of the Environment and she uses several of the Brunetti family to show her viewpoint and her frustration that it is still happening and the government do little to solve the problem.

      What attracted me to this book was the excellence of her previous books. This alone persuaded me to purchase this one, but when I saw it in the bookshop it was the title that initially intrigued me. I was curious to know what the author was referring too and it set me thinking. So I turned the book over to read the summary. This was a good size and I liked the concept the author introduced of co-operation between the two forces of law, which under normal circumstances really does not happen.

      Although I was surprised when the story actually started with the Dinner Party that Brunetti was attending and him really enjoying the company of a new friend. I found this an interesting start and I kept wondering if or how these new people would be incorporated in the main story. But for me the story meandered for a long time following this and I felt despite the excellent writing that nothing interesting was happening in the new investigation.

      I must admit that during this lull in the story I did enjoy re-acquainting myself with Brunetti and his family. This is always something I enjoy as there is always something happening and the dynamics of the family is always fascinating. The author really shares these features within his family well so that you feel you know and understand their various viewpoints.

      The story did finally become exciting for the last fifty pages or so. But it felt then there was an awful lot happening very quickly. And the author brought in all the elements that should have been incorporated from page 1 namely suspense, excitement and mystery. It became really fascinating and I was particularly impressed with one or two of the very unexpected twists the author brought in that I really did not see coming.

      With a conclusion that was good but I felt it could have been expanded to explain what happened next and why. I found while it answered some questions it left some answered. Maybe the best of both worlds but I felt a little let down by it especially as so much action had proceeded it.

      The highlight in any Leon novel for me is her multi dimensional Guildo Brunetti the lead character. I find him fascinating and I always admire his honesty and his values. He often seems a trusting man in a world full of crime, dishonesty and lies. He is everything a good Detective should be and one it is easy to like and admire, especially when he see how he fits in with his family and their interactions.

      That is one of the features about this series of stories that amount of time the author spends dealing with the main characters personal lives. This is really enjoyable and helps you see another side to them. I wonder sometimes what new readers think of her work, as some would argue that she involves too much personal interaction and for me in this story I would agree. While it was interesting it can detract from the main story, luckily in this one there was little else happening at the time.

      I do think this is one of the weakest books in a wonderful series. As the story took so long to get going it all seemed condensed into the last fifty pages. The annoying thing was the concept behind the story was excellent and the author introduced a lot of mystery when things started happening, it was a shame it was so late in the piece before this finally happened.


      For me this was a very average crime thriller and not a good example of this author's usual high standard of work. I enjoyed as always the wonderful descriptions of Venice and the quality of her writing. It was just regrettable the story took so long to get going it felt like I was treading treacle waiting for something to happen.

      ==Other Information:==

      Pages: 336
      Price: £4.65
      Publisher: Arrow
      ISBN-10: 0099533367
      ISBN-13: 978 0099533368
      Year of Publication: 2009
      About the author: www.donnaleon.co.uk

      Thanks for reading.

      This review is published on Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.

      © CPT DANIELS October 2011


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      • More +
        15.08.2011 11:54
        Very helpful



        About Face

        I really find Donna Leon a very good crime writer and thoroughly enjoy reading her books as the series she writes is of an IItalian Detective Brunetti he lives in Venice.Italy.This book starts of by having his parents in law inviting he and his wife for a dinner party.He was sat next to Franca Marinello who was a wife of a wealthy Venetian businessman. She enjoyed reading and had a great enjoyment in the reading of Virgil and Cicero which was a passion of his as well.
        It was just her apperance which was shocking to see.

        The next day his father in law spoke with his son in law Brunetti met his father in law they chattered about business adventures also Brunetti thought that that he might be lonely and when he returned home he did speak to his wife Paola about it
        Carabiniera Maggior Flippo Guarino who was from the city Marghera. visited Brunetti This became a much wider Mafia crime which needed to be investigated.

        The plot is average but what I like is the way tht the author manages to draw you in and that you really find it difficult to put the book down until you acually find out who did the crime and perhaps why. Shows how the different characters blend into one another to form a picture. I like the ease in which Donna Leon has in even the everyday things which happen become real with the descriptions of family life in Italy.
        I love the setting of Venice one of my favourite places


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