Earthly Remains, by Donna Leon
The latest installment of Donna Leon’s long-running mystery series (#26), casts her hero, Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venice police in a new light. Having acted rashly in the investigation of a young girl’s death, Brunetti decides to take a leave of absence from his grueling work. His wife, Paola, suggests he stay at a relative’s villa on the island of Sant’Erasmo in the Venetian lagoon where he can read and indulge in recreational rowing to unwind. There he befriends the caretaker of the villa, Davide Casati. Casati goes missing during a sudden storm, and Brunetti feels compelled to discover the truth of the man’s disappearance.
Leon draws a magical picture of Venice—its occupants, his close-knit family, his colleagues—against a background of police corruption, political underhandedness, and wily antagonists. Leon evokes the watery world of everyday Venice with her accustomed elegance and wit, always engrossing, always surprising.
Obviously, if you have the time, you could start with the first Brunetti mystery, Death at La Fenice, and work your way through all 26 volumes. It’s worth it. Leon is one of the finest mystery writers of our time.
Review by Tony Meisel