Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review of Blood from a Stone by Donna Leon (William Heinemann, 2005)

A few days before Christmas an African street vendor is shot dead whilst selling bags in a square in Venice.  Commissario Brunetti is assigned to the case, but makes little initial headway given that the man’s fellow illegal immigrants have seemingly melted away into the Venetian underworld.  When both the ministries of internal and foreign affairs show an interest in the case, Brunetti is order to hand over the investigative material and warned to drop his investigation.  Intrigued and holding back evidence, he continues to probe, though he seemingly makes little progress.

Blood from a Stone is a curious kind of police procedural, as much about feints and duplicity as detection.  It is told in an understated way and drifts along without any urgency.  The plot is relatively thin -- Brunetti starts to investigate a murder but is then warned off, regardless he keeps surreptitiously picking away at it despite seemingly going nowhere -- but that hardly seems the point.  The tale is more about Venice, Italian food, Brunetti’s family life, the petty office politics of the police, and a social commentary on how immigrants are imagined and treated and the West interferes in African politics.  Leon does a nice job of creating a sense of place, time and social context, and letting the reader float along with the narrative as if on a gondola.  An entertaining, mild-mannered story.


4 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - I agree with you that Leon is very effective at conveying a sense of place, time and culture. And I have to say that I really like the ongoing stories of Brunetti's home life, his relationships with co-workers and so on. This is a series I like very much.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

And I agree with you too Rob.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'll use this tomorrow, Rob.

Jerry House said...

Leon is another author I have not read, but she is lurking on Mount TBR.