STARRED REVIEW
April 21, 2017

Brunetti takes a holiday

By Donna Leon
Review by
If you haven’t read any books in Donna Leon’s stunning detective series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, now up to 26 books, the first installment may take a bit of getting used to as everything takes place on the water. Of course it does—her detective lives in Venice, where you pop out your door and into a boat in order to get to your destination.
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If you haven’t read any books in Donna Leon’s stunning detective series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, now up to 26 books, the first installment may take a bit of getting used to as everything takes place on the water. Of course it does—her detective lives in Venice, where you pop out your door and into a boat in order to get to your destination.

In Earthly Remains, the scene shifts from Venice to its nearby islands, resulting in a subtle change in pace and atmosphere in this outstanding new entry in the series.

Brunetti’s blood pressure has run a bit awry, and he ends up embarking on a trip to regroup and relax. With his wife, Paola, in agreement with the plan, Brunetti is off to stay by himself in a villa that’s owned by a wealthy relative just a short boat trip away on the nearby island of Sant’Erasmo, in the Venetian Lagoon.

Earthly Remains takes shape as Brunetti begins his somewhat solitary stay at the unoccupied villa by making the acquaintance of the villa’s caretaker, widower Davide Casati. The two begin rowing daily together in the quiet waters of the lagoon among the shimmering reaches of nature, water and sun, burning Brunetti’s mind to quiet. He grows to love the nature that surrounds him as they row: “Brunetti had the sudden realization that, though none of this belonged to him, he belonged to all of it.”

Leon paints a picture of the incessant, encompassing warmth and the quiet reaches of nature as the two men travel out among the reeds and skimming ducks under the burnishing sun. Casati introduces his friend to the bees he keeps on a number of outlying islands where, in many of the hives, the bees are dying—to Casati’s grave distress.

The sun-blanched idyll changes in an instant when Brunetti, walking to the dock in the early morning to meet his friend, finds that both Casati and his boat are missing. Brunetti must slip back into character as a law enforcement officer as he joins in the search for the caretaker. As facts emerge, the detective is forced to re-evaluate all that he knows about the caretaker and his troubled past.

Stunning descriptions of the often tranquil surroundings mingle with an atmosphere that quickly turns malignant as troubling discoveries begin to emerge and take shape beneath the surface of the calm waters.

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Earthly Remains

Earthly Remains

By Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly
ISBN 9780802126474

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