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March 7, 2010

The Anonymous Venetian

by Donna Leon

I generally pick up a Donna Leon as a filler between books, while still digesting the book I’ve just finished and getting myself in the mood for the next one. The crime-solving adventures of Venice’s Commissario Guido Brunetti are an enjoyable if untaxing read and do the job nicely.

Though not one of the best, in my opinion – the first DL I read was Acqua Alta, an atmospheric story I greatly enjoyed and which, for me, has since been the benchmark for the Brunetti stories – it was nevertheless good to return to the streets of Venice, the author always competently capturing the atmosphere of this most wonderful and unique of cities. For anyone who has ever had the great fortune to visit or stay in Venice, there is always a thrill whenever landmarks such as the Rialto Bridge or the Grand Canal are mentioned, or whenever Brunetti hops on a vaporetto. Rightly or wrongly, perhaps the greatest attraction of these books is, for me, the setting rather than the storytelling.

The Anonymous Venetian finds Brunetti investigating the murder of a transvestite prostitute whose badly beaten body is discovered just outside the city. Brunetti’s investigations hit several brick walls before eventually leading him to a charitable organisation renowned for its good work but about which, when it comes down to it, nobody really has the faintest idea. Brunetti finds himself on unfamiliar territory, investigating a world where prostitutes and transvestites apparently move in the same circles as respectable bankers and organisations with seemingly impeccable moral standards.

If you enjoy Donna Leon’s Brunetti books, you’ll probably enjoy this one, too; it has all the hallmarks of a DL but the story is not the most compelling.

James’ out-of-five star rating: **

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