Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Deeper and more subtle …

… Peter Green Reviews Two Donna Leon Books | The New Republic.

Death at La Fenice came out in 1992, and since then Leon has steadily produced a new case for Commissario Brunetti every year: with Beastly Things, her twenty-first volume, the series might be said to have come of age. Yet to a striking degree it has not changed. Almost all the main recurrent characters—the Vice-Questore, Giuseppe Patta, Brunetti’s pompous boss; Lt. Scarpa, his Sicilianbête noire, and other members of the Questura—were in place from the start. The only later additions have been Brunetti’s faithful Sergeant (later promoted Inspector) Vianello, and Patta’s elegant, computer-savvy secretary Elettra Zorzi, who advances the cause of justice (and circumvents a mass of red tape) by blithely hacking into the records of just about every institution and government department in Italy. These new faces are partly balanced by the disappearance of the diva Flavia Petrelli and her lover, the archaeologist Brett Lynch, last seen in Acqua Alta. The coming-of-age is also, inevitably, beginning to confront Leon with problems of chronological plausibility. Though all her cases could, in theory, take place within three or four years of each other, Brunetti’s children Raffi and Chiara (for example) must very soon finish school and college, find jobs, get married, fly the coop, and eschew Paola’s daily magical meals.

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