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by Donna Leon
William Heinemann, March 2003
259 pages
15.99 GBP
ISBN: 0434007951

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

American teacher/writer Donna Leon has become well known in crime fiction circles since she wrote her first Brunetti novel Death at La Fenice in 1992. Her protagonist was created almost by accident yet such is the character of the Venetian policeman as portrayed by his maker, that now her audience is constantly clamouring for more. Death In A Strange Country, The Anonymous Venetian, A Venetian Reckoning, Acqua Alta, The Death Of Faith, A Noble Radiance, Fatal Remedies, Friends In High Places, A Sea of Troubles, Wilful Behaviour and now Uniform Justice have all served to popularise this Italian Everyman and disclose more of his character to Leon admirers.

Leon has been teaching in Venice for many years and has encountered less than admirable aspects of Venetian government and life which she has used to provide Brunetti with his cases. Always Brunetti's own domestic situation - for he is a uxorious family man - has been reflected somehow in the puzzles which he solves. Always, too, Brunetti's character develops and grows with each book and each situation.

Uniform Justice deals with the death of a young cadet in a military academy. Brunetti's own superior, the egregious Patta, is, as always, anxious to have the case wrapped up with the least amount of fuss and the greatest satisfaction to powerful people, so he is prepared to call it suicide. Brunetti is far from, convinced of the truth of the simple solution and manages to investigate further.

Ernesto Moro, the dead boy, was the son of a doctor, a former politician. Moro Senior had prepared a report which pointed to corruption in high places. When his family was threatened, Dr. Moro resigned from politics. Despite Moro's retirement from public life, Brunetti suspects that the death of Ernesto is somehow because of his father's former career.

Signorina Elettra, she of the vast computer knowledge and abilities, assists Brunetti in his investigations. Brunetti falls foul of both staff and arrogant, bumptious students of the academy as he seeks to uncover the truth of the unfortunate boy's death.

Donna Leon always portrays Brunetti as a real human being subject to all the doubts and temptations that beset the human condition. Raffi Brunetti is the same age as the dead boy and Guido is always faced with the horror of how he would feel were anything to happen to his own son. He proceeds with great caution as he looks for possible motives and perpetrators should there be a crime other than suicide to solve. The father's and mother's feelings must be spared yet Brunetti is faced with procedural dilemmas in his own professional life.

The author has produced her usual impeccable work. Certainly, there is a variation on her customary style in the manner of the ending but the fact her narratives may be unpredictable adds to the charm of the books. This is definitely a tale to set the reader thinking.

Reviewed by Denise Wels, July 2003

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