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Acqua Alta (1996)

by Donna Leon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Commissario Brunetti (5)

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1,793448,293 (3.67)132
The Venice commissioner, Guido Brunetti, investigates the murder of a museum director who was involved in the traffic of Chinese antiques. Suspicion falls on a wealthy collector.

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» See also 132 mentions

English (34)  Spanish (4)  German (4)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
3.5 stars ( )
  dmurfgal | Dec 9, 2022 |
This installment of the series ties back to the very first novel of the series by re-introducing us back with Brett and Flavia Petrelli. You do not need to have read the first novel but if you had not, you will get some spoilers here. This time it is Brett who gets in trouble - someone shows up at the door and before she realizes what is happening, she is badly beaten with a message being delivered to her: skip your meeting with the museum director. Considering that she had been instrumental in bringing a Chinese exhibition to Venice and there had been some issues with some of the returned artifacts, it is not too hard to figure out that this may be related. The novel ends up tying together a tale of art, forgeries and stolen artifacts with a tale of Venice at its worst - when the acqua alta comes and covers the low floors. As is usual, the criminal action almost takes a back seat to the story about Venice - but even the crime is so Venetian than it just can not happen anywhere else. ( )
  AnnieMod | Aug 24, 2022 |
Brunetti and the Art Thieves
Review of the Grove Press paperback edition (April 2013) of the original Harper Collins hardcover (January 1996)

The title of this Commissario Brunetti investigation is taken from annual tidal flooding of Venice described as the Acqua Alta (Italian: High Water). The flooding doesn't play a role in the crime, but it is more of an obstacle to be overcome by everyone having to walk with pullover boots or even hip-waders. In that sense, it is a metaphor for Brunetti's path through the investigation.

See photograph at https://m.media-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BNmYwMjE0Y2EtMzAwZi00YWRiLWIyZmEtZmM3MTI1...
Actors Uwe Kockisch as Commissario Brunetti and Leslie Malton as Flavia Pertelli in a film still from the German television adaptation of "Acqua Alta" (2004). Image sourced from IMDb.

A friend of Brunetti is beaten up and warned to not go to a planned meeting with a Venice museum director. At first, Brunetti is investigating the assault, but the crime is eventually revealed to be related to the substitution of fakes for rare museum pieces. A ruthless Mafia crime family is behind the scheme. Brunetti calls on the assistance of the Questora's all-seeing Signora Elettra and reliable Sergeant Vianello while dodging his always interfering boss Vice-Questore Patta. A dramatic incursion and rescue makes for a suspenseful ending.

This was an excellent entry in the series as it allowed for the return of some favourite earlier characters with expanded roles. I've been trying to follow the series in order of its publication, but I've realized that it is actually mostly frozen in time, with Brunetti's children hardly aging although the books have now spanned almost 30 years.

Trivia and Links
This 5th Commissario Brunetti, Acqua Alta, is somewhat of a mild spoiler for the 1st book of the series Death at La Fenice (1992), as some of the otherwise apparent suspects from that book return and were therefore not its culprits.

There is a really fascinating interview with author Donna Leon at ItalianMysteries.Com even if it was done 18 years ago. She discusses all sorts of background to the books and characters and also gives the reason that she won't allow the books to be translated into Italian (and it wasn't because she feared criticism by her neighbours in Venice).

Although it was the 5th book, Acqua Alta was filmed as the 8th episode "Acqua Alta" (2004) of the German language TV series (2000-2019) based on the Donna Leon / Commissario Brunetti series. The entire episode is available in a faulty copy on YouTube here which has no sound and no subtitles and repeats the entire 1st third of the episode for no reason.

An English language summary of the German language Commissario Brunetti TV series is available at Fictional Cities (Spoilers Obviously). As explained in the above interview, the TV-series was a German production as the books took off in popularity the most in the German speaking countries of Europe as Leon's publishing agent was Swiss-German and knew that market the best. ( )
  alanteder | Dec 5, 2021 |
“Don’t keep that appointment with Dottor Seminzato.” Is the message delivered to Dr. Brett Lynch, along with a brutal beating. Commissario Brunetti is given the case. He is familiar with Lynch and the woman she lives with from an earlier case. The relationship between Lynch and Flavia Petrelli, the reigning diva of La Scala, doesn’t bother Brunelli, but it does others.

Shortly Semenzato is found murdered in his home. There appears to be a possible connection between the two victims. Some years back, there was an exhibition of Chinese arntiquities at the Doge’s Palace, arranged by Semenzato. Lynch had arranged for the loan of pieces from China. At some point the pieces returned to China appeared not to be the originals. This has cast a dim light on Semenzato.

While Brunetti is trying to find out who is behind the violence, it is winter in Venice and the season of the Aqua Alta, the season of high tides, heavy rain and flooding. A time where getting around Venice is difficult at best.

Brunetti finds himself exploring the world of Art through contacts in the museum restoration, stolen works and forgeries areas. Bit by bit, putting the pieces together, Brunetting creates the whole picture of what happened and who was involved. ( )
  ChazziFrazz | Jul 30, 2021 |
This is one of the earlier tales in this series. I was disappointed. Not as much of the family, not as much delicious food, and too much violence. It was a good page turner, but made me anxious unlike most Brunetti. I have always loved the family dynamic and the wonderful culinary description and this was lacking. ( )
1 vote njcur | Feb 26, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leon, Donnaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Björklund, Ing-BrittTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Desmond, William OlivierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elwenspoek, MonikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fedyszak, MarekTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frydenlund, John ErikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fuente, Ana María de laTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hızkan, DidemTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mejak, TeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Patrun, NenadTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ram, TitiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosich, MarcTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith-Hansen, AstaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Жукова, Ю.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dalla sua pace la mia dipende,
quel che a lei piace vita mi rende,
quel che le incresce morte mi dà.
S'ella sospira, sospiro anch'io
è mia quell'ira, quel pianto è mio
e non ho bene s'ella non l'ha

My peace depends upon hers:
what pleases her gives me life,
that which pains her gives me death.
If she sighs, I will sigh as well,
her anger and her sorrows are mine
and I have no joy unless she shares it.
--Mozart, Don Giovanni
For Guy Santa Lucia
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Domestic tranquility prevailed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The Venice commissioner, Guido Brunetti, investigates the murder of a museum director who was involved in the traffic of Chinese antiques. Suspicion falls on a wealthy collector.

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Average: (3.67)
1 4
2 16
2.5 9
3 110
3.5 49
4 178
4.5 12
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