In this 24th outing with the wonderfully calm and wise Commissario Guido Brunetti, Donna Leon reintroduces a familiar character – the glamorous opera singer, Flavia Petrelli who appeared in one of the very first books in this marvellous series. Back then, she was a suspect in a poisoning, this time, she is the victim of a stalker.
Starring in a revisioning of the opera, Tosca, Flavia is every bit the star, so she expects a certain degree of accolades and fandom. However, when dozens and dozens of yellow roses find their way into her dressing room and private living quarters and other strange and terrible things start to happen, including to those associated with her, Flavia understands this is no ordinary fan. So does Brunetti who, in his usual charming and languid manner, and with the support of his magnificent wife, comes to the singer’s aid.
Only, the stalker is ready for intervention by the authorities and is undaunted by what their presence suggests – on the contrary, if anything, Brunetti’s involvement raises the stakes and with that the danger to Flavia…
What I love about Leon’s work and this series is the way the characters are developed, especially the Commissario, his family and professional associates. Over the novels, regular readers know what makes Brunetti tick, his idiosyncrasies, his penchant for beautiful women, for intelligence and above all, kindness and how much bureaucracy and those who adhere to its tenets annoy him. These books are not fast-paced or compulsive in the sense of an air-port page–turner, but like a gourmet meal, they are to be savoured and enjoyed – every last word.
Leon captures the heart and soul of Venice and it’s declining population, their loyalty to each other and attitudes to the rampant tourism and the Disneyfication of this gorgeous water-laced city as well as the realities of a professional family with older children, who, though they live under the one ancient roof, find the distances between them in this modern world almost insurmountable.
A treatise on love in all its forms, including the obsessive (in that regard it reminded me a little of Ian McEwan’s wonderful Enduring Love), the novel is certainly food for thought and a love-ly (sorry! couldn’t resist) addition to the Brunetti series.