Written from the perspective of Commissario Brunetti, the novel’s protagonist who is a Venetian police detective, we only see what he sees, knows, and does—so there are some issues left hanging, as there are in real life. Brunetti is what we would like every police officer to be, especially those who wander into our lives. He is thoughtful, considerate, wise, caring, self-aware, and a first-class investigator.
What I find amazing about this novel is that it is Donna Leon’s 17th about Commissario Brunetti, but it reads (or I should say speaks) with an originality that is breathtaking. I have found in my decades of reading that an author’s first or second book in the mystery, police procedure or thriller genres are usually the best with a steep slide downhill thereafter as the main character and the writer become worn by repetition.
Of course, THE GIRLS OF HIS DREAMS, was the first Leon novel to which I have been exposed. I plan to go back to read the first and then a more current one. For birthday gifts, I have ordered her first novel, DEATH AT LA FENICE (1992), for my wife, Rae, and her 18th novel, ABOUT FACE (2009), for my sister, Miriam.
David Colacci, the narrator, has a wonderfully clear and interesting voice, which is so important in a CD-Book. I find that most readers with accents, Italian, British or otherwise, are impossible to hear comfortably—so I dump those CDs immediately.
Police departments around the world would do well to ask their detectives and front line police officers to read Donna Leon to a find model in Commissario Brunetti for behavior and investigative procedure.
If Cambridge (MA) Police Sgt. James Crowley had followed the Brunetti approach, he would have asked Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. not only for his ID, but for his phone number in their famous meeting in the doorway of Gates’ home. In the Brunetti mode, Crowley would have called his dispatcher to double check and call the number. After the phone rang in the house or the professor’s pocket as they stood facing one another, he could have said, ‘I guess that clears up this case. Have a nice day Professor Gates.’
I am really looking forward to reading DEATH AT LA FENICE—after my wife finishes it, of course.