Commissario Brunetti, the senior Venetian police officer and star of Leon’s previous books, is sent to recuperate from stress in a secluded house on Sant’Erasmo, an island in Venice’s laguna. While there he makes friends with a local man. They spend days rowing in the laguna, tending to the man’s bees, and talking. But the bees start to die, and then his friend is found dead…
I have read many of the Brunetti books, and this is the best so far in my view. Set in Venice, the books are stuffed with spectacular surroundings, wonderful food, and chaotic corruption in public life. They are easy to read, and strangely addictive.
Brunetti wrestles with what is right when dealing with crimes, but also when dealing with the opaque and shifting concerns of the various authority figures he comes across, and as he addresses the other complexities of family and political life. I don’t always agree with the politics presented in the books, but I have a sneaking fondness for his arch and progressive wife Paula.
A previous winner of the prestigious Silver Dagger Crime Writing Award, Donna Leon has maintained both her popularity and the quality of her work over a long and impressive career. Ecological themes feature increasingly strongly in her work, as this interview makes clear, and this only adds to the relevance of her work. Earthly Remains is a thoughtful, interesting summer read.