Monday, September 20, 2021

Book Review: Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon

Death in a Strange Country (Commissario Brunetti, #2)Death in a Strange Country (Commissario Brunetti #2). Donna Leon. Penguin Books (1993). 373 pages. Genre: Mystery.

First Line: "The body floated face down in the murky water of the canal."

Summary:  Commissario Guido Brunetti is called out of bed early one morning to inspect a body that has been found in the canal.  The man has no identification on him, but several things point to him being an American.  It appears he was the victim of a robbery gone bad.  However, once the medical examiner has finished, things are looking a little different.  The knife wound that killed him was done in such a precise way that it would have killed him instantly.  There are only a few people who would know how to perform such a cut or else, someone got very lucky.  As Brunetti begins his investigation he is met by several roadblocks.  It seems there are things going on that someone wants kept secret.  Will Brunetti be able to unravel the tangled web before more lives are lost?

My thoughts:  Opening a Commissario Brunetti novel is like stepping into Venice.  This one was no exception.  

As the case unfolds the reader learns more about the type of man that Brunetti is.  He is a man who needs time and space to think things through.  At times when he is especially stumped, he will stand in his office and look out the window for an hour or more.  Other times he will take a walk.  He is also a man who values his family - his wife and two teenaged children.  He loves to come home in the evening and be greeted by the smell of dinner cooking.  He is also a man who is struggling with his children growing up and how to deal with the new situations that present themselves.  

This case was particularly difficult.  It involved members of two countries.  It involved very influential and dangerous people.  There were lots of things that were hidden and Brunetti was unsure who to trust. If you are looking for a mystery that follows a logical procedure and gets completely wrapped up, this one will disappoint you.  And this is not because the author lacks talent, but because the nature of the mystery and the climate of politics at the time made it so.  

I enjoyed getting to know Commissario Brunetti and his family a little better.  I loved feeling like I was in Venice being taken by boat through the canals.  I will admit, the ending left me feeling a little unsettled.  But, it won't be long until I pick up the next book in this series. 


"Still not fully awake, she spooned sugar into a small cup, flipped off the gas with a practised motion of her wrist, and poured a thick stream of coffee into her cup.  Cradling it in her hands, she walked back to the open window and, as she had every morning for decades, looked across at the giant equestrian statue of Colleoni, once the most fearsome of all Venetian military leaders, now her nearest neighbor."

"He loved Paola for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that he knew this to be her real motive for getting off the phone. There was no secret message, no hidden agenda in what she said; she merely wanted to free the line so that his work would be easier and he would be home sooner."

"It would have been easy for Brunetti to grow indifferent to the beauty of the city, to walk in the midst of it, looking and not really seeing.  But then it always happened: a window he had never noticed before would swim into his ken, or the sun would gleam in an archway, and he would actually feel his heart tighten in response to something infinitely more complex than beauty."


  1. Years ago, I read the first book and wasn't very impressed. I don't remember why, and I'm too lazy to search for the right book journal to find out. BUT... this is one of those series that needles me and needles me and needles me. Sooner or later, it's going to bug me so much that I'll give it another chance! LOL

    1. Sometimes it's just not the right time to read a book. Well, if you ever do read it I will be interested to hear what you think.