Wednesday, March 27, 2019


My “Blog Reader Book Suggestions” are, as the English say, “working a treat.”

(Writer’s Note: “Working a treat” is a goodthing.)

Case In Point:

Mystery writer Donna Leon.

Donna Leon has written over two dozen “Guido Brunetti” detective novels.  I selected a more recent example, giving her the time to work the kinks out of her “process.”

After reading “Earthly Remains” (2017), I can report the author is happily well on her way.  (Her earlier works might also be good.  Like the Friends pilot, some writers “nail it” right it of the box.)

Regular followers know I’ve been soliciting reading suggestions, because I am trying to cut down on TV, which is supposed to relax me but instead makes me inordinately jumpy. 

Even the commercials. 

Sometimes, especiallythe commercials.  

Did you know you could have “Hep. C” without even knowing it?

I could be suffering from it right now!

And so could you! (Sorry.  But early detection appears to be helpful.)

I have in the past read – or listened to – numerous crime novels.  John Grisham comes to mind, and then recedes, along with my recollection of his latest offering.  

Why does that happen? 

“Efficient writing” is as enduring as a shopping list.

On the other hand,

Donna Leon can write!

(She just happens to write crime novels.)

What does it mean when I say a person can write?
It means there’s a bonding connection between the writer’s work and what I personally appreciate.

(It may also mean it’s “good writing.”  But I am not in the business of making such judgments.)

Donna Leon’s “Guido Brunetti” series is set in Venice, Italy.  And it specifically feelslike it.  (If it were set, for example, in Venice, California, there would be more tattoo parlors, Dads on rollerblades pushing their kids’ strollers, and breakfasting wannabes “this close” to a big show business breakthrough.)

“Earthly Remains’” storyline easily held my attention.  Its fleshed-out characters were distinctly interesting.  The final resolution, though somewhat abrupt, came as a well crafted surprise.  (Don’t ask me to write book reviews.  I am not good at it.)   

I was particularly struck by the detective’s ultimate decision – possible “Spoiler Alert – to place “feelings” before “justice.”  (Showing a level of maturity beyond “Book him, Dano.”)

But what I really enjoyed was the writing.  

A good mystery novel, written with literary flourish?  That’s like the “No-Stick” frying pan advertised on TV, and they throw in “Shipping and Packaging” for free.

And sometimes, even a second “No-Stick” frying pan!

In crime novels, “literary flourish” is a genuine bonus… 

Is what I am trying to say. 

In fact, the book’s “word choice” is so scrupulously careful I began wondering if I was reading a translation.  It felt “better than English.”

“Earthly Remains” includes countless examples that made reading the “whodunit” so deliciously pleasurable.

Offering a few of my favorites: 

“Imitating a look he had often seen on his mother’s aunt Anna, Brunetti brought his lips together in a tiny moue of disapproval.”

Describing a row of garishly painted houses:

“No one would think of wearing any of those colours as clothing.”

A reticent character, taking Brunetti’s handwritten phone number:

“She took it and studied it as though she’d found it in her hand at the end of a magician’s trick and had no idea what to do with it.”

A guarded Nursing Home manager:

“… she flashed them a smile that resided exclusively in her mouth.”

An eager support person, asked to assist in the investigation:  

“She did not sniff, she did not wag her tail, nor did she pull at the lead, but Brunetti could sense her desire to be off in pursuit of what might be only a rustle in the grass but might just as easily be prey.”

An offended character registers the kind of astonishment 

“… a dowager would express at the idea of doing the dishes.”

And the philosophical reminder:

“… it was not his business to ask people to think as he did.”

There was one loose end mentioned in “Earthly Remains” the book failed to address.

How do Italians drink coffee at night?

Otherwise, it was lovely.

(Postscriptural Acknowledgement:  Thank you Pidgie for your book recommendation.  If all my followers’ suggestions are as rewarding as this one, I’ll be “off television” in no time.  And by the way, keep ‘em comin’!)


FFS said...

Val McDermid. The Karen Pirie series.

Pidge said...

Leon’s entire series is excellent from the first volume. I spent an entire summer immersed. Then I went to Venice to wallow in Guido’s world.

Here’s another suggestion. Today I picked up a shabby copy of “East of Eden” from a dusty shelf in an English classroom. I glanced at the first page and then fell into the world of the Salinas Valley. I had read the book decades ago, seen the film, taught “Grapes” in my career, even visited Cannery Row in my day. Earl, the description of the valley, the early inhabitants, the settlers...right up your alley.
Even if you, too, read this earlier in your life, it’s worth another look. The writing is spectacular.

Alan said...

If like mysteries by WRITERS, check out anything by P.D. James.
She's wonderful

Alan said...

If you like...