Friday, February 12, 2010

ABOUT FACE: DONNA LEON



Yesterday it was very pleasant to spend a relaxing evening reading About Face by Donna Leon after a very stressful day of meetings.
Many thanks to Maxine of Petrona for sending me this book.
Donna Leon and the Brunetti series proves that you really don't need brilliant plots if your readers exhibit a strong desire to read about the great characters you have created, and you write intelligent prose.

At a dinner party given by his parents-in-law, the Conte and Contessa Falier, Brunetti meets Maurizio Cataldo, a business man, and his much younger second wife Franca Marinello. Franca is known as 'la super liftata' and her expressionless appearance shocks Brunetti although he is intrigued by her grasp of Ovid, Virgil and Cicero.
The Conte asks Brunetti to investigate Cataldo as he is considering going into a business venture with him, and they also discuss Franca.

'But a person does not go to Australia for plastic surgery, for God's sake.' .........................

'I hardly thought you were going to run off with her, Guido,' he laughed.
'Orazio, believe me: one woman who reads is more than enough for me.'
I know what you mean, I know what you mean.

There are two I know what you means in the book, and I could add another.

Later Carabinieri Maggior Filippo Guarino contacts Brunetti and the two spar over exactly what Guarino wants from him, because this is Italy where distrust between the police forces is endemic. Venice, and Veneto, seem no different in this respect from Sicily where to quote author Leonardo Sciascia 'the left hand does not trust the right even when they belong to the same man.'
Guarino, who also shows a interest in Signorina Elettra, is part of an investigation into the move of the Camorra gangs into the north, and their involvement in the transport of garbage, coincidentally the very same business into which Cataldo wants the Conte to make an investment.
Brunetti is asked to identify a murder suspect, another murder occurs with the body dumped in an industrial estate in Marghera, and surprisingly I had a particular interest in the final explanation of the case.

I find Donna Leon's books a constant delight as she describes a society where government agencies live alongside criminal gangs and sometimes you can't tell which is which. She is definitely back on top form with this book as she draws attention to the graft, corruption, incompetence and depravity that hides behind the beautiful face of Italy.

Paola took a step closer to it by saying,' You work for this government, and you dare to criticize my father for investing in China.?'

Even though he has to tread carefully dealing with his lazy, sycophantic, politically motivated superior Vice-Questore Patta, Guido Brunetti must surely be the luckiest cop alive.

He is married to the fragrant Paola, a Professor of English Literature from a wealthy family, who has other very important attributes.

'If you put that hand anywhere near me, I will divorce you and take the children.'
'They're old enough to decide themselves,' he answered with he thought was Olympian calm.
'I cook ,' she said.

He also has the always beautifully attired Signorina Elettra to work some wizardry with a computer for him, and now he has a new work colleague; Commissario Claudia Griffoni 'a tall, willowy blonde with blue eyes and skin so clear that she had to be careful of the sun'.

On top of that Guido, and Paola's children Chiara and Raffi are quite civilized, and he lives, and works, in scenic Venice. A very lucky man, we however can read about his adventures and at least we don't have our garbage transported by the Mafia, N'Dragheta or Camorra, well not yet anyway.

4 Comments:

Blogger Maxine said...

Lovely review, Norman. Sometimes I wonder about the garbage collection, though. In Kingston, we now have a recycling collection to meet govt targets, so us residents sort everything out into 3 categories each week, and the rubbish collectors come round 3 times each Monday to take it all away in different trucks. However, previously, they came in one truck each Monday and took everything. This left them time over to do things like sweep the roads and take away the litter, salt the roads when it snowed, sweep up the leaves, etc. Now, they do none of this, as they have all been redeployed to sort rubbish to meet the recycling targets. I do wonder (esp every monday when I come home from work and find litter all up and down the road from the stuff that has fallen out and not made it into the various recycling trucks, and that nobody ever comes to sweep away).

1:35 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks very much, Maxine. I really enjoyed reading this, thanks again for the book.
We have a fortnightly collection on alternate weeks of rubbish and recyclable materials. Unless there is snow in which case it stretched to three weeks, and there was no salting of our residential streets. Weekly collections of rubbish were abandoned some time ago and as Exeter apparently is not going to get the Icelandic investment back yet there may be further cuts in services.
I think the collectors round here do a very good job as the streets are quite clean. The potholes are another matter and my little car nearly disappears down some.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Margot Kinberg said...

Norman - Maxine's quite right. This is a wonderful review! I already like the Brunettis quite a lot, and this one has already been on my TBR list. Your review really reminds me of the reasons I should move it up on the list - several places.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thank you very much, Margot.
The fact that I wrote that review with a terrible headache following a rather stressful day makes your kind comments [and Maxine's] even nicer to receive.

Unfortunately some of the people I have to deal with on this steering group are more Patta than Paola.

5:02 AM  

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