Published by William Heinemann
Publication date – 4 March 2021
Source – review copy
In his many years as a Commissario, Guido Brunetti has seen all manner of crime and known intuitively how to navigate the various pathways in his native Venice to discover the person responsible. Now, in the thirtieth novel in Donna Leon’s masterful series, he faces a heinous crime committed outside his jurisdiction. He is drawn in innocently enough: two young American women have been badly injured in a boating accident, joy riding in the Laguna with two young Italians. However, Brunetti’s curiosity is aroused by the behaviour of the young men, who abandoned the victims after taking them to the hospital. If the injuries were the result of an accident, why did they want to avoid association with it?
As Brunetti and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, investigate the incident, they discover that one of the young men works for a man rumoured to be involved in more sinister night-time activities in the Laguna. To get to the bottom of what proves to be a gut-wrenching case, Brunetti needs to enlist the help of both the Carabinieri and the Guardia di Costiera. Determining how much trust he and Griffoni can put in these unfamiliar colleagues adds to the difficulty of solving a peculiarly horrible crime whose perpetrators are technologically brilliant and ruthlessly organised.
When Brunetti reads a story in the paper about two badly injured American women, left outside the hospital, he is curious. Together with his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, he looks into why they were abandoned and who left them there. Discovering the who is easy enough but the pair soon discover something darker regarding one of the men involved. Soon they are coordinating with the Carabinieri and the Coast Guard to bring about the end of a heart-wrenching crime.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here. I adore this series. I look forward to each new book in much the same way a child looks forward to Christmas. I’m loathe to use trite phrases like it being an intelligent crime series for that suggests that other crime novels are not intelligent, which is certainly not the case. What I will say is that there is no mistaking that the reader has a Brunetti novel in their hands, even if all of the names were removed. There is an atmosphere, a sense of place and an unquantifiable feeling that comes with settling down with a Leon book. They often revolve around a non-crime, following on from a comment, or passing interaction with a person that leads Brunetti down a path, one that is sometimes one-way, with no sign of justice at the end.
In Transient Desires the accident leads Brunetti and Griffoni away from the hospital the young girls are left at and across the water to a much darker secret, ready to be uncovered. This is Leon at her best, uncovering the layers of a story, letting it unfold organically. There are no red herrings for the reader to stumble upon. The story evolves for the reader as it does for Brunetti. There are no disappointing threads that aren’t tied up. The ending when it comes is abrupt but fitting, the culmination of an investigation carried out with dogged determination.
This instalment was very much focussed around Brunetti, Griffoni and their investigations. There are fleeting glimpses of Signorina Elettra, who works her magic and find information the Commissarios need with the fewer questions asked the better. Brunetti’s family are seen at only a few of the signature dinner scenes. Whilst Paola, Brunetti’s wife, features only briefly, she is there as Brunetti’s sounding board, solid ground and sometimes devil’s advocate.
In some of the past books, the crime that has been committed is not always one in which the reader, or indeed Brunetti, would like to see avenged. These are stories of accidents, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or of good intentions gone bad. However, in Transient Desires, there is a case of clear cut evil, one that all involved, either those in the book or those holding it, want to be avenged.
I thoroughly enjoyed my return trip to Venice. It is always a pleasure to spend a few hours in the company of Guido Brunetti, even if that visit invariably takes a dark turn and heart-breaking turn.
Transient Desires is the 30th Guido Brunetti novel. Donna Leon has celebrated in style with a story as good as any of the preceding 29 novels. If you are a fan of this series you won’t be disappointed. If you have yet to discover the joys the series brings, I’d urge you to pick give it a try.
About the Author
Donna Leon was named by The Times as one of the 50 Greatest Crime Writers. She is an award-winning crime novelist, celebrated for the bestselling Brunetti series. Donna has lived in Venice for thirty years and previously lived in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China, where she worked as a teacher. Donna’s books have been translated into thirty-five languages and have been published around the world. Her previous novels featuring Commissario Brunetti have all been highly acclaimed; including Friends in High Places, which won the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, Fatal Remedies, Doctored Evidence, A Sea of Troubles and Beastly Things.