Posts tagged ‘Donna Leon’

January 6, 2019

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Quercus, £12.99, out now

A teacher is murdered in Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex.  Her school has an historic elly griffiths stranger diariesconnection with ghost story writer R M Holland.  As pupils and colleagues try to come to terms with her death, the story surrounding it unfolds with Gothic overtones.

Investigating is Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur, an excellent character with an acid tongue and a sharp mind.  On arriving at a witness’s home, she sees that the witness has been reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and remembers that the murder victim had been “sitting in the dark with her herbal tea.  Someone really should tell these women about Netflix” (p. 138).  Her genial home life gives me the same cosy feeling I get reading this aspect of Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti crime stories (see https://theriversideway.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/earthly-remains-by-donna-leon/).  She is an old student of the comprehensive where the murder happened, and knows all the rumours and ghost stories which surround the school.  The story is told from the perspectives of Harbinder, Clare (a colleague of the victim), and Clare’s daughter Georgia, who is a pupil at the school.  Also woven in are sections of R M Holland’s ghost story.

It helped that the abandoned cement works and nearby strip of workers’ houses where some of the action takes place are familiar to me, as I used to go past them on the bus… and I had often thought that it was quite a creepy place.  But I’m pretty sure this personal experience isn’t necessary for others to enjoy the book!

This was a perfect holiday read for me.  I had never read any Elly Griffiths, but a friend bought me this standalone mystery novel for Christmas.  I devoured it in two days when I should have been doing other things.  I am now looking forward to reading her series set in Norfolk, which my friend says is just as good.  There are two good dogs in this book.

Review by Bethan

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June 20, 2017

Earthly Remains, by Donna Leon

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Cornerstone, £18.99, out nowDonna Leon EARTHLY REMAINS

Commissario Brunetti, the senior Venetian police officer and star of Leon’s previous books, is sent to recuperate from stress in a secluded house on Sant’Erasmo, an island in Venice’s laguna.  While there he makes friends with a local man.  They spend days rowing in the laguna, tending to the man’s bees, and talking.  But the bees start to die, and then his friend is found dead…

I have read many of the Brunetti books, and this is the best so far in my view.  Set in Venice, the books are stuffed with spectacular surroundings, wonderful food, and chaotic corruption in public life.  They are easy to read, and strangely addictive.

Brunetti wrestles with what is right when dealing with crimes, but also when dealing with the opaque and shifting concerns of the various authority figures he comes across, and as he addresses the other complexities of family and political life. I don’t always agree with the politics presented in the books, but I have a sneaking fondness for his arch and progressive wife Paula.

A previous winner of the prestigious Silver Dagger Crime Writing Award, Donna Leon has maintained both her popularity and the quality of her work over a long and impressive career.  Ecological themes feature increasingly strongly in her work, as this interview makes clear, and this only adds to the relevance of her work (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/15/donna-leon-interview-commissario-brunetti-earthly-remains).  Earthly Remains is a thoughtful, interesting summer read.

Review by Bethan

October 14, 2012

Andrea Camilleri: Inspector Montalbano

by Andre


THE Scandinavian invasion has defined crime fiction in recent years as we embraced chilly, bleak and ingeniously gruesome novels from Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo and Hakan Nesser. Perhaps readers are now ready for a warmer crime climate. Just as Mankell’s Wallander novels benefited from TV adaptations, 87-year-old Andrea Camilleri’s enjoying a sales boost for his Sicilian policiers thanks to the Inspector Montalbano TV series on BBC4.

Montalbano is hot-blooded but astute, a dedicated investigator with his own moral code. Italian society’s problems – corruption, the mafia, political instability – add a dose of disturbing reality to Camilleri’s concise yet labyrinthine crime stories. This veteran author’s observations on his country enrich these novels as much as Montalbano’s obvious pleasure in Sicilian cuisine: in The Potter’s Field (published in paperback in November) the detective breaks off from his investigation to tuck into a picnic including a whole tumazzo cheese and a flask of wine. Beginning with The Shape of Water, there are 14 Montalbano novels to be devoured. Follow that feast with Marco Vichi’s series set in 1960s Florence, featuring the reflective Inspector Bordelli, a former partisan and dedicated gourmand whose favourite pork chops recipe is printed at the back of the second novel, Death and the Olive Grove. Italian crime series by Michael Dibdin, Donna Leon and Gianrico Carofiglio are also worth investigating.