What a joy it is to discover a new and wonderful author with a large backlist for you to dive into. It doesn’t happen often these days, but every once in a while I still get lucky. Last year it was two fantasy authors, David Gemmell and Tamara Pierce. This year, it is mystery writer Donna Leon and her unique creation Commissario Brunetti of the Venice Police.
In preparation for a return trip to Italy next year, it has been over thirty years since I last set foot there, I have begun my usual routine of reading novels set in an area I plan to visit. Since our first stop will be Venice, I began with a novel by Donna Leon, whose mysteries came highly recommended.
I was not disappointed. Leon’s police detective Commissario Guido Brunetti is a policeman’s policeman – that is he thinks and acts like a real police detective. Many authors think writing a police procedural means copying the television stylings of Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Law & Order or any other popular Hollywood creation. This never captures the true way police officers/detectives think – it is all flash, and tough talk, and gritty dirty secrets glossed up with fisticuffs and action. This isn’t real police work, nor does it speak to the humanity and thought process possessed by real life officers/detectives.
In Brunetti, Leon has capture the true heart of a detective, his thinking and concerns, the every day aggravations, and the intense desire to be an advocate for the truth. Read a Leon book for the beauty of her prose, the depiction of Brunetti, and the loving portrait of Venice – the city the Brunetti loves and which speaks to his soul.