Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

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I’m always surprised when the Naperville Public Library not only has something I want to read, but I’m not the 863d hold on one of three copies. And so it is that I have been able to settle down with an aching jaw, an ample supply of Motrin, a pot of tea, and Earthly Remains, Donna Leon’s latest mystery with Commissario Guido Brunetti.

What a pleasure it is to spend the evening with him, this old “friend” from previous novels. In the beginning of this book, he has just been diagnosed with the need for rest and relaxation from work and is preparing to leave his office for Sant’Erasmo in the south. How I long to accompany him and partake in his plans of rowing, or reading in bed with a fresh cup of coffee should it rain.

He is staying at a villa his wife’s aunt owns, and there he befriends Signor Davide Casati, a man whom Brunetti discovers once rowed with his own father. The skill with which this older man is able to guide the boat is compared to the old peasant in Anna Karenina with whom Levin scythes, barely able to keep up. Such a beautiful comparison, in my literary mind’s eye.

But after a terrible storm, neither Casati nor his boat are able to be found. Where could he be? Checking on his bees in their various hives all around Venice? Talking with his deceased wife at the cemetery? Brunetti calls in reinforcements to help investigate his friend’s disappearance, which, of course, is ultimately a death.

“While he waited, Brunetti went and looked out the window and allowed anomalous information to move around in his mind: a few dead bees in a plastic vial, the Aral Sea, two thousand Euros a week, dark mud in another vial. If they were pieces on a board, would he be able to move them round so that they formed a picture?”

Of course Commissario Brunetti carefully puts together the pieces, moving them around so that an answer emerges, and in the course of his detective work reminds us of the honor, and dishonor, within each of us. Although surely some, who have grown accustomed to luxurious comfort, are able to excuse their dishonorable side which can lead to murder.

While this novel is carefully executed, each piece of the mystery ringing true to current crises, my favorite part of Donna Leon’s writing is how she is able to make me dwell in Venice. Even if only for a night.

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14 thoughts on “Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

  1. Love this series too. I have been trying to read them in order of publication so it may be awhile before I reach this one. Cheers!

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    • I think that is a good idea, to read them in order of publication. I was going to do that with Louise Penny’s books, too, but somehow I seem to pick up the one at hand. Still, it’s nice to become familiar with the characters. I remember how much I loved Spenser, hero of Robert B. Parker’s series.

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    • Especially when one needs an escape, physically or mentally! This was a perfect read after oral surgery, as well as after a steady stream of (often heavy) translated books for the MBIP 2017. Not that I didn’t love reading the long list, mind you. Glad you appreciate Venice with me!

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  2. A nice Sunday to you Meredith 😊
    Venice holds special meaning for me. I will have to look up this latest Donna Leon. Thank you for your review. Feel better.
    Here is a Historical novel I acquired through NetGalley and the publisher Delphinium Books, “THE MAPMAKER’S DAUGHTER” by Katherine Nouri Hughes.
    You might like this book, Venice in the 16 century and a young woman who became the most powerful woman in the Ottoman Empire.
    I do not believe it is published as of now.

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    • I have found the book you suggest on Net Galley, and requested it, though I doubt they’ll grant me access as I review so little from their site. Oops.

      A very Happy Sunday to you, Sylvie, and thanks for the comment accompanying your suggestion. I love books set in Italy! (And, of course, France!)

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  3. Hope you are feeling better, M! Having returned just yesterday from Venice, I can say this was a wonderful surprise o find on your blog 🙂 I enjoy the series, so this will be on my must read list. I was planning to read something Venice related while in Venice, but this time it did not work. I was so tired of walking and strolling and sightseeing that I could hardly read a few pages by a Romanian writer, so it’s not about what you plan, it’s about what you fancy at that time :)) Get well and have a blessed week!

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    • Ally, I’m so happy (and envious in a good way!) that you were actually there! I haven’t been to Venice since the mid 80’s, and I so miss it. It’s funny how Leon’s character whines a bit about the tourists, which must be a little frustrating for the Venetians, but how can they keep us away?

      I know what you mean about needing the right book for the right time. For example, when I’m reading a book set in a certain country, I always long for the food from there! I have developed a huge passion for samosas and biryani, I must admit, which accompanies a passion for Italian food. And German. Oh, I’m always hungry. 😉

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  4. I’m reading my first Donna Leon right now and enjoying it very much! I love starting a new series and having so many more of her books to look forward to!

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  5. I know just what you mean about being the 8ooth person on a waiting list at the library! I, too, prefer to pick up what’s in front of me, rather than wait a year. I’m in the mood for some relaxation lit and will ahve to try Donna Leon.

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