My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I’ve wanted to read the Guido Brunetti series for some time. It’s set in Venice by an American author who had lived there for some time and being of Italian descent it appealed me. This, however, was not a good introduction to the series. Admittedly I’m being tossed into the series somewhere other than the beginning but I knew that and with most mysteries, that’s not a big deal. But other than Brunetti and his wife, I got a feel for no one. They were very flat.
It didn’t help that this is exactly the kind of mystery that doesn’t appeal to me, dealing with politics and terrorism with a smack of racism. That did not help. So maybe 2.5 stars would be more accurate because technically, it’s not badly written, it just wasn’t my thing. That said there were real issues with it (for me at any rate).
It opens near Christmas (which I had no idea until somewhere mid book and Brunetti realizes he has no gifts for anyone). An illegal immigrant from Africa is shot dead while peddling knock off high end hand bags. Brunetti and his partners start investigating, getting nowhere fast. To his wife’s (and his) horror their young daughter is very dismissive of this because it was just an illegal African who died (and honestly, I mention this because it comes up so very often in the book).
About a third of the way in, Brunetti’s boss says they’re off the case and the Ministry is taking over (I’m assuming they’re like the FBI). He doesn’t tell Brunetti why and this corresponds with the moment that Brunetti has made a major find at the dead man’s apartment. Naturally this doesn’t stop Brunetti but the action slowly presses forward to a completely unsatisfying ending which I’ll discuss it and a few other things under a spoiler alert.
Would I read another of these at the library? Maybe. It’s possible I picked a bad one and it had elements that even if it were better, I still wouldn’t like. I will admit I know nothing about how the Italian police force works. I’ve read two true crime books involving that but both were written by Americans and both gave the idea that they were negligent at best, criminal at worst. There is a reflection of that in this, talking about the corruption of the force and how Brunetti has to go to everyone but the chain of the command to get anything done. But mostly I found this horribly slow. There isn’t much in the way of red herrings. It just plods along but doesn’t take us where I thought it would go. Too bad, because it goes nowhere.
Okay, I knew from the moment Brunetti finds uncut diamonds in the dead man’s home, this was going to be blood diamonds to fund something. It takes Brunetti way too long to get to that conclusion but weirder, he doesn’t report the diamonds. He doesn’t turn them in. He gives them to a friend in the diamond business and never does turn them over to anyone in the investigation.
We never know the dead man’s name. We never know who killed him. True, that DOES happen in the real world but we read fiction to get resolution. In fact, that’s what I like about mysteries. I know that at the end of the day, we’re going to find out whodunit. But we don’t. Eventually it takes an outsider to pull it all together. This was unsatisfying on so many levels.
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