Copyright: April 2011 (Penguin) 262 pgs
Series: 19th in the Commissario Giuideo Brunetti Mysteries
Mystery Sub-genre: Police Procedural
Main Character: Guido Brunetti, Commissario of Police
Setting: Modern day, in Venice, Italy
Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review
It is a miserably hot August in Venice when Brunetti gets a visitor who leaves him with files that appear to show a judge who is taking bribes. In order for this judge to get away with her tactics it requires an accomplice who is a clerk, Araldo Fontana. This clerk is reported to be honest and above suspicion. Brunetti begins to make discreet inquiries since the justice system is so corrupt he could get in trouble without having far more evidence.
One of the regular cops, Vianello, has his aunt being scammed and Brunetti is looking to get evidence on the scam artist, even if it isn't his place to. Then there are the regular office politics. Brunetti's boss is a political animal who is more concerned about not upsetting anybody influential rather than justice.
Just as Brunetti is ready to go to the cooler mountain region for vacation, Fontana is found dead. Brunetti stays in the city while his family goes on vacation.
This is my first Brunetti mystery and I must say I enjoy him as a character. Intelligent and a wicked sense of humor, he is loyal and wants to see justice for victims. He is surprising introspective and atypical from the standard Italian male chauvinist. The supporting cast of Vianello and Elletra, the capable administrative assistant and the other officers are great characters. Vianello who is torn up about his Aunt and has a golden touch getting subjects to open up and talk. Elletra who is a calm and self-assured presence that can find most any information with her computer. Brunetti's family is enjoyable with his wife, and two children even though they don't get much time in this story.
There are many possibilities with the plot and the conclusion is well thought out on both the main plot and the subplot. The pacing is not rushed but systematic and interest is maintained with the questions that arise with each discovery.
The setting becomes a character since the heat is almost an adversary and ever present. Venice will never seem the same in my imaginings after this. I feel like I was living there, experiencing the corruption of the government by the wealthy and powerful and the descriptions of the canals and the city in general. There are occasional Italian phrases or words used that are easy to understand in context which add to the feeling of having been in Italy.
I can only ask why I waited until the 19th book in the series to jump in? If you like a police procedural with a cozy bent this series could be for you. Check it out.