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by Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly Press, March 2021
288 pages
ISBN: 080215817X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In her thirtieth mystery featuring Venetian policeman Commissario Guido Brunetti, Donna Leon once again invites us to be a part of this charismatic character’s world and family as he goes about solving a crime on the bustling and intriguing Venetian waterways.

As always in her novels, Donna Leon does not solely focus on the crime that Brunetti is solving. We also look forward to descriptions of Italian food prepared by his beautiful wife Paola. These lunches and dinners and snacks add a mouthwatering element to all of Leon’s Brunetti tales. We get to watch our policeman snack on bowls of olives and wolf down little luncheon sandwiches. But best of all are Paola’s creations that he shares at family meals with his two irascible teenagers, Chiara and Raffi. They are an amusing and endearing group who do not let Brunetti get away with anything.

Transient Desires begins when two badly injured young women are left on a hospital dock. The men who deposited them there did not alert the medical staff and the women were only discovered by chance. Brunetti must discover who the women are, how they were injured and who the men were who dropped them off without staying to see that they got help.

One of the girls is able to tell him some of what occurred, but what she tells him only deepens the mystery. She remembers little of the wild boat ride that ended in a crash. With the help of police from other jurisdictions, Brunetti finds the identities of the young men whose images have been captured on videotape. One of them is the nephew of a crime boss who works on the river and is known for his violence. This young man, Marcello Vio, and his close friend Berto Duso, were the ones who invited the girls to ride with them on what was Vio’s uncle’s boat. He is also badly injured, but he is mostly terrified of his uncle Pietro Borgato.

Brunetti sets out to find out why and soon discovers that the uncle is violent even to his family. He is also homophobic, and the friendship between the two young men needs to be kept out of his view.

Brunetti wonders where all Borgato’s money is coming from. His evident stream of wealth is not gotten through legal means. His boats go out at night and sail into international waters where they cannot be controlled. It is clear that Borgato is smuggling some kind of expensive contraband. And soon Brunetti learns what the river boss is really doing. He is engaged in a horrific type of smuggling, one that is linked to many terrible crimes including murder. Now Brunetti and his colleagues must create a plan to catch him in the act and arrest him.

The scenario they decide upon is one fraught with danger and the suspense builds as we realize a good ending is not assured. Transient Desires packs a punch and stands out as one of Donna Leon’s best.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, March 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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