A SEA OF TROUBLES and BLOOD FROM A STONE by DONNA LEON.
The Murder of two clam fishermen off the island of Pellestrina, south of the Lido on the Venetian lagoon, draws Commissario Brunetti into the islands close-knit community, bound together by a code of loyalty and a suspicion of outsiders worthy of the Mafia. When his boss's secretary Signorina Elettra volunteers to visit the island, where she has relatives, Brunetti finds himself torn between his duty to solve the murders, concerns for Elettra's safety, and his not entirely straightforward feelings for her ....
.... Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): Pellestrina is a long, narrow peninsula of sand that has, over the course of centuries, been turned into habitable ground.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 109): Her clothing declared her widowhood as indisputably as would a hand-held placard or a giant letter pinned to her breast.
On a cold night shortly before Christmas, an immigrant street vendor is killed in Venice's Campo Santo Stefano. The nearest witness to the event are the tourists who had been browsing the man's wares before his death - fake handbags of every designer label - but they have seen nothing that might be of much help to the police.
When Commissario Brunetti arrives on the scene, he finds it hard to understand why anyone would murder an illegal immigrant. They have few connections and little money; in-fighting among them is the obvious answer. But once Brunetti begins to investigate this unfamiliar Venetian underworld, he discovers that matters of great value are at stake in the immigrant community ....
Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): Two men passed under the wooden arch that led into Campo Santo Stefano, their bodies harlequined by the coloured Christmas lights suspended above them.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 253): At times Brunetti asked himself why he bothered with official police channels at all, if he had to rely almost exclusively on private connections and friendship in order to do his job.
MY THOUGHTS: Coming highly recommended by several friends and fellow bloggers I found both of these 'Brunetti' books (numbers 10 and 14 in the series) to be everything they said they'd be ...... and more. And having seen the characters develop over these two books fully intend to read the other books in chronological order.
Crime capers set in exquisitely described Venice, I found both A Sea Of Troubles (book 10) and, Blood From A Stone (book 14) to be a bit more relaxed and less graphic, one could almost say more gentle, than the vast majority of other crime books on the market.
Perhaps concentrating on family/working/community relationships and issues of a somewhat moral and/or political nature (amongst other things police bureaucracy and pollution in A Sea Of Troubles and racism and the counterfeiting of branded goods in Blood From A Stone) as much as the crime itself, I really found these novels a refreshing change.
Though I did enjoy A Sea Of Troubles finding Brunetti's relationship with P.A., Elettra, fascinating reading and the 'locals' reaction to the police interesting, I did find the plot a bit implausible, Elettra' role as an undercover officer perhaps a little far fetched.
In my opinion Blood From A Stone was a better though in many ways more disturbing read. Though enjoyable from the point of view that many aspects of the story will be familiar to those of us lucky enough to have visited Venice, with an underlying theme of (largely disliked) immigrants and racism this did at times make for uncomfortable reading.
Perhaps at times guilty of being a tad over-zealous in her desire to make us, the reader, more socially and environmentally aware, I can't help but wonder if Paola (Brunetti's wife) is in fact Donna Leon.
A long time since I read two books by the same author back to back, I recommend these two books as a great alternative to the positively gory crime thrillers I seem to have been reading of late.
KEEP THEM OR NOT?: Borrowed from a friend, though I do wish to read all the books I'm not sure I will be buying copies of my own.