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Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon

Death in a Strange Country (original 1993; edition 1995)

by Donna Leon

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1,262376,267 (3.66)96
Title:Death in a Strange Country
Authors:Donna Leon
Info:Pan Books Ltd. (1995), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:2013 Books Read, Read but unowned

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Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon (1993)

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English (28)  Spanish (5)  German (2)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (37)
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I was delighted to find a Brunetti novel that I hadn't read. Very early in this long standing series, the author is just establishing the characters of Guido Brunetti and his wife Paola. Their children are in their early teens. Vice-Questore Patta tries in vain to mould Brunetti, and Signora Elektra, Patta's computer literate assistant is yet to come on the scene. For those who have visited Venice there are evocative descriptions.

Already too there are signs of Donna Leon's intense interest in corruption in high places, and the roles that both Italy and America are playing in global waste and pollution.

Not to be missed. If you haven't yet read any Donna Leon, this is a series you shouldn't miss - one certainly worth reading in order. ( )
  smik | May 19, 2014 |
I continue to be an enormous fan of the Commisario Brunetti series. For those of you who may have missed my earlier reviews, Donna Leon teaches English for the University of Maryland Extension near Venice and has lived in Italy for many years. She portrays the flavor of Italian life vividly, and it's clear that while she must love living there, petty and not-so-petty corruption is rampant. She makes delightfully wicked little comments. For example, the Carabineri major, interviewed by Brunetti on an American army post - not base, that's for the Air Force - waxes on about the characteristics of Americans. They tend to be arrogant, of course, but Americans are really too insecure to be truly arrogant, "unlike the Germans." Classic.

Brunetti is walking home through "battalions of ravaging tourists who centered their attacks on the area around San Marcos. Each year it grew harder to have patience with them, to put up with their stop-and-go walking, with their insistence on walking three abreast through even the narrowest calles. There were times when he wanted to scream at them, even push them aside, but he contented himself by taking out all of his aggressions through the single expedient of refusing to stop, or in any way alter his course, in order to allow them a photo opportunity. Because of this, he was sure that his body, back and elbow appeared in hundreds of photos and videos. He sometimes contemplated the disappointed Germans looking at their summer videos during the violence of the North Sea storm as they watched a purposeful, dark-suited Italian walk in front of Tante Gerda or an Onkel Franz, blurring, if only for a moment the lederhosen-clad tourists" with what was probably the only real Italian they would see during their stay.

An American soldier, Sgt. Michael Foster, an American public health inspector at the American military hospital in Vicenza, has been found floating in one of the Venetian canals. In an act of true heroism, two policemen jump in the water - the water being so dirty, hence the heroism - and drag him out. Brunetti's superior would like nothing better than to have the case buried, because the idea of an American being killed in Venice would ruin the tourist trade. Brunetti purposefully manipulates his boss into thinking the murder might have been committed elsewhere - must think of tourism, of course - so he can be authorized to travel to the man's post and investigate. An army captain, Dr. Peters, a woman doctor, who had come to Venice to identify the body in the morgue, had vomited from what Brunetti thought was from fear, when she saw how the man had been killed, by a knife plunging directly through the ribs into the heart. He suspects something is rather odd about this case, especially when he finds some cocaine that was not well hidden in the dead soldier's apartment, apparently after it had been thoroughly searched by the military authorities. The case becomes more complicated as both he and the Carabinieri major are politely warned off the case after they discover a connection between the dead soldier, a sick boy, contracts for the disposal of toxic waste, Brunetti's father-in-law, and the ostensible suicide by heroin overdose of Dr. Peters, not to mention the theft of some famous paintings from a prominent businessman.

As with many of her other books, you are left at the end deeply saddened by the corruption, the illicit use of power and its effect on Brunetti, who, despite all, struggles on trying to stay an honest cop. He is a wonderful character. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
m'enganxen molt les històries del Comisari Brunetti, del Guido.. els crims i la forma d'investigar-los... l'abientació, sempre amb Venècia i els seus canals de fons... ( )
  gatxanshan | May 18, 2013 |
Perhaps Donna Leon's best, in a standout series. Much of this is amusing, and sometimes touching, in the midst of a cross-cultural plot pitting Brunetti against his sellout political superior, as usual, but additionally, the Americans who dress in shorts even on a military base--a base which features a swimming pool and a Baskin-Robbins. "Did the Americans know where their money went?" In a rare departure from whodunit convention, Brunetti even knows one of the victims.
As for amusement, take the Commissario's response to his boss Patta's pretentious, gold-cigarette holder reprimand, " 'Brunetti, I've had a very upsetting phone call.'
'Not your wife, sir, I hope,' Brunetti said in what he hoped was a meek voice."
But consider Leon's irony, so frequent in this novel, and so unique in the genre. Her vehicle is the Commissario's reflections on politicians and criminals alike. On a tall exemplar of the latter, "Giuseppe had never worked, the only trade he had ever practiced was in stolen objects...If he was back at work so soon after being released, two years in prison had apparently not been wasted on him" (134).
This novel also provides insight into Brunetti's marriage to Paola, from the Venetian aristocracy.
A professor of literature, especially American, she does not awaken easily on Sunday morning. As Brunetti on honeymoon had nuzzled her ear in the morning, he heard, "If you don't stop that, I'll rip out your heart and eat it." The honeymoon was over.
Overall, this is a fine work of fiction, even on a topic which has grown in relevance since the novel was published--environmental crime. This novel would bear teaching in a college course (such as those I taught for four decades) if it weren't so accessible, like EF Benson, who is never taught, yet one of the best English comic novelists of the 20C. ( )
  AlanWPowers | Jan 14, 2013 |
This is the second book I have read of hers and I enjoyed it much more than the first. ( )
  cookiemo | Oct 7, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Donna Leonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Araújo, Luiz A. deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bartsinopoulos, ErrikosTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bilencan, A. SemihTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Björklund, Ing-BrittTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cegieła, MarekTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Desmond, William OlivierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elsink, FransTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elwenspoek, MonikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frogner, ElsaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fuente, Ana María de laTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mejak, TeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oshida, YukiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pricajan, MirceaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuurman, TitiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith-Hansen, AstaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tandori, DezsőTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torramilans, MireiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Žodan, BrankaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Volgi intorno lo sguardo, o sire, e
vedi qual strage orrenda nel tuo
nobil regno, fa il crudo mostro. Ah
mira allagate di sangue quelle
pubbliche vie. Ad ogni passo vedrai
chi geme, e l'alma gonfia d'atro
velen dal corpo esala.
Gaze around you, oh sire, and see
that terrible destruction the cruel
monster has wrought in your noble
kingdom. Look at the streets
swamped in blood. At every step
you see someone groaning, the
spirit leaving a corpse swollen with
horrible poison.
--Mozart, Idomeneo
For Peggy Flynn
First words
The body floated facedown in the murky water of the canal.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143034820, Mass Market Paperback)

In Death in a Strange Country Commissario Guido Brunetti confronts a grisly sight when the body of a young American is fished out of a fetid Venetian canal. Though all the signs point to a violent mugging, something incriminating turns up in the victim’s apartment that suggests the existence of a high level conspiracy—and Brunetti becomes convinced that somebody is taking great pains to provide a ready-made solution to the crime. As dark and riveting as its predecessors, Death in a Strange Country will provide Leon’s growing fan base with another chilling read.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:58 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

CRIME & MYSTERY. Early one morning Guido Brunetti, Commissario of the Venice Police, confronts a grisly sight when the body of a young man is fished out of a fetid Venetian canal. All the clues point to a violent mugging, but for Brunetti, robbery seems altogether too convenient a motive. Then something very incriminating is discovered in the dead man's flat - something which points to the existence of a high-level cabal - and Brunetti becomes convinced that somebody, somewhere, is taking great pains to provide a ready-made solution to the crime.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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