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by Donna Leon
Penguin, October 2005
352 pages
ISBN: 0143035843

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Venice is in the middle of a heat wave, a situation that has put everyone out of sorts, including Commissario Guido Brunetti. Fortunately for him, he and his family are planning a vacation to the much cooler mountain region. But before he can even pack a pair of underwear, he's involved in a new case.

A transvestite whore is found murdered in a field outside of a slaughterhouse in Mestre. Dressed in a red dress, with one red shoe on and one red shoe off, it seems an unlikely place for an assignation. The Mestre police department is shorthanded, so Brunetti ends up taking the case.

Right from the start, something feels off about the situation to Brunetti. Early on, he discovers that the murdered man is named Leonardo Mascari, a married man who is the director of the Bank of Verona. What Brunetti is having trouble reconciling is that the decidedly unattractive and middle-aged Mascari would have any kind of clientele if he were a male whore.

As he ventures into finding out more about this kind of life, he uncovers the fact that there are men in power who are using the services of male whores. Of course, no one in the police wants to approach any of these powerful people and make any connection to such a sordid case.

What Brunetti also finds is that there is a very lucrative scam going on having to do with renting apartments in Venice, apartments which are almost impossible for the average person to rent. The more he investigates, the more danger he and his team faces. As a matter of fact, one of them is killed during a meet.

Guido Brunetti is a character who is always welcome at my reading table. He is a devoted family man. Unlike many cops, he is always civilized and has an intuitive sense of how to comfort or interrogate those he meets during his investigations. He is sensitive and serious but exhibits a fine sense of humor as well, especially when interacting with his wife, Paola.

Although the book wasn't quite as strong as the first two in the series, it was nonetheless satisfying. Leon does an exceptional job of portraying Venice, its glory and its warts, as well as the complicated politics of the time.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, December 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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