The plot revolves around some considerable improbabilities, but the interactions between Brunetti and his colleagues and family make this a fairly worthy addition to the series.
I found this one of the best Donna Leon's books. The main mystery is very interesting in itself but is assisted by the interwining of the corruption throughout Italian politics and its influence on all aspects of Italian life. The interplay between the Brunetti family adds to the understanding of this influence. The mystery centers on the death of a man assumed to be 'simple-minded' and has no identification papers of any kind. This is Donna Leon at her best!
This novel is very different from the other Commissario Guido Brunetti novels. This one is much more thoughtful and sad. It says something about Brunetti's position that he is able to go off on a personal quest 'on company time.' It all comes about from a request from Guido's wife, Paola.
She has heard that the deaf/mute young man who has worked (at their local dry cleaner for years) has died from an overdose of sleeping pills. He's been seen folding clothes but no one knows his name. The assumption is that the 40 year-old is related to one of the owners. Paola thinks the young man's death is shocking and tragic; she urges Guido to find out more about it.
What Guido finds is an appalling case of hate and neglect. Several persons are involved in the events leading up to the young man's death. The difficult thing to surmise is whether the young man committed suicide or was murdered. One amazing fact is that there are no documents OF ANY KIND related to the life of the young man. How can someone life in a small country like Italy and there be no record of his life at all?
This story weaves around more than usual. The author is on her hobby horse about Italian corruption, as usual. However, this unique story will encourage the reader to do some serious thinking about the value of a single life. Who else can write a mystery that encourages a philosophical discussion on the significance of living? I would not suggest this book as an introduction to Donna Leon's fine novels. However, a regular reader will enjoy the thoughtfulness of the themes discussed in this book.
I hope that I have not dissuaded anyone from reading this book. I downgraded it based on the ambling nature of the story. Perhaps the meandering was necessary to offset the awful explanation. I'll read it again later to see if I feel the same.
1. Death at La Fenice (1992)
2. Death in a Strange Country (1993)
3. The Anonymous Venetian (1994) aka Dressed for Death
4. A Venetian Reckoning (1995) aka Death and Judgment
5. Acqua Alta (1996) aka Death in High Water
6. The Death of Faith (1997) aka Quietly in Their Sleep
7. A Noble Radiance (1997)
8. Fatal Remedies (1998)
9. Friends in High Places (1999) Dagger Awards Best Novel nominee
10. A Sea of Troubles (2001)
11. Willful Behavior (2002)
12. Uniform Justice (2003)
13. Doctored Evidence (2004)
14. Blood from a Stone (2005)
15. Through a Glass Darkly (2006)
16. Suffer the Little Children (2007)
17. The Girl of His Dreams (2008)
18. About Face (2009)
19. A Question of Belief (2010)
20. Drawing Conclusions (2011)
21. Beastly Things (2012)
22. The Golden Egg (2013)