Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Golden Egg: a Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery by Donna Leon

The blurb:
In The Golden Egg, as the first leaves of autumn begin to fall, Vice Questore Patta asks Brunetti to look into a minor shop-keeping violation committed by the mayor’s future daughter-in-law. Brunetti has no interest in helping his boss amass political favors, but he has little choice but to comply. Then Brunetti’s wife, Paola, comes to him with a request of her own. The mentally handicapped man who worked at their dry cleaner has just died of a sleeping pill overdose, and Paola loathes the idea that he lived and died without anyone noticing him, or helping him.

Brunetti begins to investigate the death and is surprised when he finds nothing on the man: no birth certificate, no passport, no driver’s license, no credit cards. As far as the Italian government is concerned, he never existed. Stranger still, the dead man’s mother refuses to speak to the police, and assures Brunetti that her son’s identification papers were stolen in a burglary. As secrets unravel, Brunetti suspects that the Lembos, an aristocratic family, might be somehow connected to the death. But why would anyone want this sweet, simple-minded man dead?

I always enjoy Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti mysteries but The Golden Egg is a particular favorite of mine.  Leon gives us her characteristic image of Venice - the attitudes, the combination of a glamorous and casual way of living of the Brunetti family, but in Golden Egg we also see another aspect of the Venetian upper classes and just how much Venice is a village of sorts.

As Brunetti looks into the death of the mentally handicapped man, he discovers a life hidden from view.  But in a world of paperwork and pensions, it takes a lot to live completely off the grid.  So, while the dead man's life is hidden, his identity comes to light.  Well done, carefully crafted, The Golden Egg is another wonderful escape by Donna Leon.

ISBN-10: 0802121012 - Hardcover $26
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (March 26, 2013), 256 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

About the Author:

A New Yorker of Irish/Spanish descent, Donna Leon first went to Italy in 1965, returning regularly over the next decade or so while pursuing a career as an academic in the States and then later in Iran, China and finally Saudi Arabia. Leon has received both the CWA Macallon Silver Dagger for Fiction and the German Corrine Prize for her novels featuring Commisario Guido Brunetti. She lives in Venice.

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