Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

Earthly Remains: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery by Donna Leon --- 308 pages

Earthly Remains is the 26th novel in Leon's long-running mystery series set in contemporary Venice. As the book opens, Brunetti snaps while questioning an irresponsible and selfish aristocrat  about the drug-induced death of a young girl at a party. The Commissario winds up in the emergency room, diagnosed with job-induced stress. He and his wife, Paola, decide that he needs to get away completely from the tensions and pressures of his job if he is to regain his equilibrium. 

Brunetti obtains a leave of absence from the Questura, and Paola arranges for him to spend several weeks at the rural villa of her wealthy Zia Costanza on Sant'Erasmo, one of the largest islands in the Venetian laguna. Brunetti plans to spend the days rowing in the laguna and the nights re-reading Pliny's Natural History.  

When Brunetti arrives on the island he is pleased to discover that the caretaker of the villa, Davide Casati, is an old friend of his father and an expert rower of a puparìn he built himself. Brunetti goes out rowing with the caretaker every day as Casati tends his bee hives, scattered on small islets in the laguna. Brunetti learns that Casati is grieving both the death of his wife and the mysterious death of his bees, and seems to feel responsible for both tragedies. Then one evening a sudden, fierce storm  blows through the laguna. The next morning, Davide's daughter Federica discovers her father never made it home the night before. Brunelli uses his influence as a police officer to call out a search of the laguna. He goes out with the patrol boats and finally they find the overturned puparìn floating just off the island where Casati's wife is buried, and then Brunelli finds Casati's body trapped under the water, entangled in the boat's anchor rope. 

The coroner rules it was an accidental death caused by the storm. But Brunetti is not sure. Could it have been suicide? Or even murder? Brunetti is convinced that Casati was consumed by guilt for something he did, when he was young and selfish, careless and irresponsible, heedless of the consequences. And by the time Casati realized his mistake, the damage was irreversible. So did Casati kill himself to expiate his guilt? Or did someone else kill Casati to prevent him from exposing the truth?

One of the best books in a brilliant series. 

Click HERE to read the review from Publishers Weekly.

Click HERE to read the review from Kirkus.

Click HERE to read the review from the New York Times.

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