July 24, 2010

Summer Reading!

Looking for an author to explore by the pool or beach (or next to your air conditioner) this summer?

Let me share a recommendation I received at a book signing at my local Barnes and Noble about a year ago. I was sitting next to a lady waiting for the event to begin when we started to chat. She was an avid reader and told me about an author that she had recently discovered and couldn't get enough of. After listening to her rave review I wasted no time in ordering a couple of books to see for myself.

I have since become just as much an addict as the lady at Barnes and Noble! Who is this marvelous writer - it's Donna Leon (right) and her series of mysteries set in Venice in the 1990's and featuring the astute Commissario Guido Brunetti as its protagonist.

Ms Leon writes with authority about Serenissima - she lived and worked there for twenty years! Born in New Jersey in 1942, she has also lived in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China. But it is the Italian "City of Bridges" that she chose as the backdrop for her very successful series of crime novels.

Part travelogues and part thrillers, her stories take place within the jurisdiction of the Questura of Venice and involve a diverse cast of characters. Readers accompany the very sympathetic central figure, Guido Brunetti, from the office, the police department with his obnoxious superior officer Vice-questore Patta, his charming and capable secretary Signorina Elettra and his junior officers, through the canals and piazzas to various crime scenes and ultimately home where his aristocrat cum Communist wife Paola and their two teenage children Raffi and Chiara show a much softer side of this seasoned detective.

The crimes and their solutions unfold with careful pacing and beautiful descriptions taking the reader on a tour of Venetian sights and flavors that vividly bring the city to life. Beginning with the first book in the series, "Death at La Fenice", written before cell phones and the Euro, we follow the personae as they track down all manner of criminals up to the most recent novel, "About Face", where the telefonino prevails and the Lira is a distant memory.

Donna Leon's books may not be masterpieces of English literature, but they are very well written and extremely entertaining and I would highly recommend them. I would also like to thank the lady at the Barnes and Noble reading for giving me such an invaluable tip! Buena lettura!

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