Gems from the pen of Donna Leon

August 28, 2011 at 8:12 pm (Book review, books, Italy, Mystery fiction)

  I’ve waited too long to write about this novel. I no longer recall the details of the plot – or much about the plot at all, actually. But there is always so much more to a Brunetti novel than the detection aspect. I’d like to share some of the highlights.

The first concerns the somewhat enigmatic Signorina Elettra, factotum of the Questura:

Brunetti passed outside Signorina Elettra’s office and peered inside, relieved to see an abundance of flowers on the windowsill. A step further confirmed his hope that more of them stood on her desk: yellow roses, at least two dozen of them. How he had prayed in the last months that she be returned to her shameless depredation of the city’s finances by claiming these exploding bouquets as ordinary office expenses. Every bud, every blossom was rich with the odour of the misappropriation of public finds: Brunetti breathed in deeply and sighed with relief.

Oh those deliciously satisfying little acts of workplace subversion…

Donna Leon may have issues with the current state of affairs in La Serenissima, but she gladly pays tribute to the city’s glorious past. An address that Brunetti and Vianello  are searching for proves to be “in a building just to the right of the church where Vivaldi was baptized….”

Willful Behavior concerns the search for the truth about a crime committed in the past.   Brunetti must investigate events that occurred during the Second World War. The Commissario seeks help from his father-in-law, Count Oralio Falier. When he’d first married Paola, Brunetti’s relations with her father, a member of Italy’s old aristocracy, had been uneasy. But as the years elapsed, they’d grown to like and respect each other. On the occasion of this particular interview, the Count is forced to revisit some painful truths and searing memories from his own past. It’s one of the most powerful scenes I’ve yet encountered in this series. Here’s how it ends:

Brunetti stood and, compelled by an impulse that surprised him, walked over to the Count and embraced him, held him in his arms for  long moment, then turned and left  the study.

Donna Leon

Click here for a reading group guide to Willful Behavior.

1 Comment

  1. kathy d. said,

    I love the Brunettis, Signorina Elettra, and, of course the entire series penned by the excellent writer, Donna Leon. I have read all of them.

    Unfortunately, I don’t remember these details, but so much the better for me, so that when I reread the books, much will be new to me and I can enjoy them all over again.

    This is a wonderful selection on Elettra’s habit of buying flowers on the police department’s account. Good for her. Hope that never ends.

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