Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Death at La Fenice

Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti #1)Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Four and a half stars.

Death at La Fenice is the first book of the long-standing crime series by Donna Leon. We are introduced to Commissario Guido Brunetti in his native Venice. A famous conductor is found dead in his dressing room during intermission, apparently poisoned by a dose of cyanide in his coffee. In the early stage of the investigation, Brunetti notes “how strangely similar his work was that of a doctor. They met over the dead, both asking ‘Why?’ But after they found the answer to that questions, their paths parted, the doctor going backward in time to find the physical cause, and he going forward to find the person responsible.”

I loved the novel’s sense of moral ambiguity, which is especially ironic since the victim saw justice as black and white. There is also the backdrop of European history: fascists, communists, and nasty Nazi rumours. But the present truth is much darker.

Of course, one of the stars of the book is Venice. Brunetti often mulls her great past and current decline into a provincial town. He wonders “how long it would take before the entire city became a sort of living museum, a place fit only for visiting and not for inhabiting.” Tourists are also fair game as Brunetti wryly observes them as “people who [seem] to find the pigeons more interesting than the basilica.”

What will keep me reading the series is Leon’s attention to Brunetti’s family life and work politics, and her insights on Italian life. I loved Brunetti’s affection for two lazy colleagues, his interaction with an art gossip and a lunch hosted by the dominating matron of one of the area’s best restaurants.

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On the Road to Babadag

On the Road to Babadag: Travels in the Other EuropeOn the Road to Babadag: Travels in the Other Europe by Andrzej Stasiuk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Poetic, meditative, and at times piercingly insightful, On the Road to Babadag takes the reader on a trip to the other side of Europe. As one reviewer commented, "On the Road to valuable reading...If we can't read our way around Europe, how will we ever find our place, our identity, within it?" (For the entire review:

Stasiuk describes the hallucinatory aspects of his trips; his writing sometimes follows suit. After awhile, I found I had to take a break from the book because I needed to ground myself back in reality. However, he finely captures the surreal moments which happen in Eastern Europe, the magic, the lost quality of living outside of the mainstream. Stasiuk says that he seeks "disintegration" and loves the "periphery". If you loves these qualities, too, you should journey with Andrzej Stasiuk.

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Finding Karla

Finding Karla: How I Tracked Down an Elusive Serial Child Killer and Discovered a Mother of ThreeFinding Karla: How I Tracked Down an Elusive Serial Child Killer and Discovered a Mother of Three by Paula Todd
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The title sums up the booklet. You won't find any new revelations about Homolka; instead, it is remarkable that Paula Todd found her using sparse facts and by following rumours on the Internet.

Is it a worthwhile read? The text is short & it isn't expensive. Although, I don't want to dwell on her life, upon some reflection, the booklet does answer the question: How does Karla now live?

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