* Prices may differ from that shown
This is the fourth book by Donna Leon that I have reviewed. Originally my boss told me to give her a try as she is her favourite author. And after getting used to the first one, I have found her books to be very good. They are all based in Venice and focus on the detective work of Commissario Brunetti.
About the author:
Donna Leon has lived in Venice for many years. So far she has written 17 crime novels including this one, all of which have been highly acclaimed. Before becoming a writer she was a teacher and gain experience in many countries.
About the book:
A friend of Inspector Vianello Marco is arrested following a demonstration at a chemical plant. The environmentalist's wife called Vianello to get him released. Brunetti accompanies him, but as soon as they get there they discover all the charges against Marco have been dropped.
Upon his release the three men bump into Marco's father in law De Cal, an owner of the local glass making plant. He is furious with Marco and threatens to hurt him. After some informal enquiries Brunetti is satisfied that 'the old man' is just shouting his mouth off and means him no actual harm.
Then Giorgio Tassini, the Night Watchman at the Glass Plant is found dead. Upon investigation he has also been talking bitterly about the Plant to everyone. Brunetti discovers he has a dossier about the Plant, claiming the owner to be responsible for his two year old daughter's bad health.
The Commissario must find out if it is Tassini's own guilt that makes him believe this or if there really is a case to answer by De Cal and the other next door plant owner Fasano.
My thoughts on the book:
My overall view on this book is an enjoyable read. I do still struggle with the Italian culture as for me it is so different from our own. So issues such as corruption, the Mafia and environmental laws I find difficult to relate to because of this difference.
What I liked about the book was the basic storyline. I liked the way the author used an environmentalist Marco and I thought it would be all about him and the struggle between right and wrong. But she merely used his character that opened up the story which was not about him at all.
However I did at the same time find the story really seemed in the early chapters to be meandering along without a specific purpose. There was no investigation as such and I waited with bated breath for something to happen. Which of course it finally did, I just thought she could have brought it all in earlier in the book.
As a result of this it was only the final few chapters when the book became exciting. Up to that point is was a routine story. That said something I like about the author's style is the way she leads the investigation so far but then leaves some of the conclusion open to interpretation. Allowing the reader to decide what would have happened in the end.
I have become accustomed to the lead character of Commissario Brunetti and over time I have learnt to enjoy the little interplays in the books between him and his family. However they have little to do with the plot or the investigation, they just seem to make him more likeable and human. That said the relationship the author creates between Brunetti and his senior officers is quite amusing and frequently makes me wonder how anything every gets done.
Donna Leon for my money writes from the heart. She is very good at setting the scene and through intelligent writing is able to get the reader hooked on the story even if not much is happening!! I do not feel it is her best novel by any means but still a well constructed and thought provoking book.
For me the book could have quite easily been a little longer in length. As everything seemed a little rushed towards the end. I would have liked to have considered the facts and had them spelt out a little more clearly.
Well worth a read. Not the finest moment by Donna Leon but an interesting and enjoyable piece of fiction none the less. A must however for any Donna Leon fans. I can imagine this as a good book to read on holiday, not too deep or riveting just a novel you can pick up and read a few chapters as the mood grabs you.
Published by: William Heinemann 2006
Amazon Price: £5.49
Web Site: www.donnaleon.co.uk
Thanks for reading
This review is also posted on Ciao under my user name.
CPTDANIELS November 2008
Commissario Brunetti and his colleague Vianello "play hooky" on a fine spring day in Venice and leave the Questura to help Vianello's friend Marco, an engineer and ardent ecologist, who's protested in front of a factory on the mainland that poisons the lagoon with its waste and has been arrested. Brunetti succeeds in getting him released, but when they leave the station, Marco's father-in-law, Signor De Cal, appears, the owner of a glass factory on Murano, an island in the lagoon off Venice, all rage and fury. Later Marco's wife confides in Brunetti that she's afraid her father who's repeatedly threatened to kill her husband may indeed do it.
When a man is killed in De Cal's glass factory some time later, it isn't Marco, though, but the night-watchman who, as Brunetti has already learnt, is convinced he's being poisoned by the owner. What does all that mean? The Comissario takes over the case.
Through a Glass Darkly is Donna Leon's 15th thriller in the Commissario Brunetti series, No 17 is already out in hardcover. I've read nearly all of them, I've only skipped two or three, why have I been so faithful especially as I wrote a review in 2001 (The Dark Sides of Venice) advising Donna Leon to take a break and not publish a new book every year, regular as clock-work? I've finally understood that what I complained about then - a not too thrilling plot - isn't relevant for her thrillers and her success, people just love the novels the way they are and as I always come back to them, she must indeed do something right, also for me.
Like all the other novels before Through a Glass Darkly rests on four columns so-to-speak, 1) Commissario Brunetti, the private man with his hobbies and family, 2) Commissario Brunetti, the policeman with his job and colleagues, 3) the town of Venice and 4) the crime proper. Talk of formulaic, with Donna Leon you've got the strictest formula possible and her readers love her for it, they even demand it!
Commissario Brunetti is a good one, no vices lurk under his surface, sometimes he appears to be too good to be true, I'm not sure that I wouldn't find him a bit boring in the long run if I had to live with him. He doesn't come over as flat, though, he's got enough interests (his main being reading historical and philosophical books by ancient authors in the original) and intelligent thoughts to make him round. He's a family animal, but in Through a Glass Darkly his wife and two children stay in the background, they don't have a part in the plot as it is the case in some of the other books. As always we occasionally join the family in the dining-room and get to know some tasty recipes of the Venetian cuisine.
Brunetti's colleagues at the Questura are an assortment of more diverse and thus more fascinating characters, I always look forward to reading about his pompous, vain and essentially stupid boss, the intelligent, pretty secretary Signorina Ellettra, who's not loyal to her boss but on the side of the staff, a gifted hacker who can get all necessary information from all sources imaginable - very useful for an author when the official means of communication are exhausted and the case comes to a dead end. They and Brunetti's partner Vianello are round characters, new facets are added in every instalment.
How Donna Leon describes Venice for the umpteenth time and makes the description readable again is simply admirable, she presents the town throughout the year, of course, through the different seasons, but fifteen books means more books than months
of the year! Of course, Venice is a grateful object, but hats off nevertheless. The publisher of the German translations of her novels sells them with a map of the town in which the sites of the crimes of all novels are marked and tourist have been seen wandering around and looking at the buildings, streets and canals which Donna Leon describes so perfectly. She's certainly struck gold with her idea to make Venice a protagonist, too.
In Through the Glass Darkly the crime is a typical Venetian one, it belongs to the town and its surroundings, it's not connected with the international crime scene as it is in some other books of the series. The island of Murano in the lagoon off Venice is world-famous for its glass production, everywhere in Venice glass bowls, vases, wine glasses and a lot of glass knick-knack are sold, together with carnival masks glass things are the main souvenirs tourists buy. The background is well researched and the reader learns a lot about glass making but not too much to get the feeling that the book is a manual for glass makers
Crime-wise the book isn't a page turner, even by Donna Leon standards it's rather tame. Who do I recommend it to? If you're bloodthirsty, if you read thrillers only if the victims are slaughtered, skinned or mutilated in some other gory way, then Donna Leon's books are not for you even if you find Venice an attractive destination. If you're more into cosy thrillers and if you've been to Venice or plan to go there, then you'll find them good reading matter.
Should you be there at the moment and need a present for a loved one at home, why not buy a pretty glass vase from Murano and add Through a Glass Darkly as an extra? You'll score highly!
RRP 6.99 GBP
It is a luminous spring day in Venice, as Commissario Brunetti and Inspettore Vianello take a break from the Questura to come to the rescue of Vianello's friend Marco Ribetti, who has been arrested while protesting against chemical pollution of the Venetian lagoon, only to be faced by the fury of Marco's father-in-law, owner of a glass factory on the island of Murano. But, it is not Marco who has uncovered the guilty secret of the polluting glass foundries of the island of Murano, nor he whose body is found dead in front of the furnaces which burn at 1400 degrees, night and day. The victim has left clues in a copy of Dante and Brunetti must descend into an inferno to discover who is burning the land and fouling the waters of the lagoon. A man is dead - but will politics and expedience prevent the killer from striking again?