Monday, April 1, 2013

Review of The Golden Egg by Donna Leon

I am ashamed that it has taken me so long to discover Donna Leon. I can honestly say I am a fan who is going to go out and get more books, preferably the first three, in this Commissario Brunetti series.  The Golden Egg is the 22nd novel in the Brunetti series but I feel that it can be read as a standalone as well. Although I'm sure it could have only helped if I had read any of the previos books, I don't feel like anything was lacked in regards to character depth, or vivid imagery. Leon's writing is top-notch and I can't wait to read more by her.

The Golden Egg begins with Commissario Brunetti accepting a request from his boss to investigate a potential scandal for the mayor who up for re-election involving his future daughter-in-law. The daughter-in-law may be in violation of shop-keeper laws. Something completely minor and really has nothing to do with the main dish of the plot. Paola, Brunetti's wife, is saddened by the idea that a mentally handicapped boy has been found dead by eating sleeping pills and may have died alone. Paola only knows of the boy because he "works" at their local cleaners. Brunetti agrees to find out what happened and this is where things get interesting. In an attempt to verify his identity, there is no proof that he's alive. There is no birth certificate, passport, ID, or school records. The boy, which find to later be a man, seems not to exist and his mother isn't giving up any information either. She blames his lack of papers on a recent theft.

I especially liked Brunetti and see why this series has made it to the 22nd book. He seems like a caring man, almost to the point of annoyance. He's not the typical detective that are used in American based procedurals. At times he makes moves based on how it is perceived and is very cautious of his actions not offending someone. I thought this was very interesting because it wasn't common. We often get the wise cracking, forceful brutes as police archetypes. Apparently Venice does not have this problem.

Although Leon's work falls under the thriller/mystery category, there wasn't much "thrilling" about it (not meant to be a slight) only that there isn't the usual thrill usually associated with novels under this classification. There are no gun fights, no ripping down the streets in Mini's, and no horribly mangled gorrey dead bodies. It's a genuine mystery supported by interesting characters with a plausible, real plot that explores the depth of character and greed. This novel should definitely fit nicely on the bookshelves of Leon fans as well as mystery lovers. I repeat I'm ashamed I haven't read this writer's work before now but as they say: better late than never.****

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