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by Donna Leon
Penguin, May 2007
320 pages
ISBN: 0143112201

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Originally written in 1998 under the name of DEATH OF FAITH in the UK, this book is now called QUIETLY IN THEIR SLEEP. It features the policeman, family man and citizen of Venice, Commissario Guido Brunetti.

One day just as spring is about to arrive Brunetti is visited by a woman he realizes used to be a nun who took care of his mother in her nursing home. The nun had been transferred to another nursing home a while ago and it seems that the nun has not only left working in that new nursing home but has now also left the church.

It seems that some of her patients had died with no good reason and after remembering some remarks from the recently deceased, she suspected that they were done in by someone who had an idea that money would be left to the home if any of these people died. She had voiced her thoughts to her superiors and had been strongly told to be quiet. But the fear that something bad happened wouldn't let her leave the subject alone and she had been censored by her superiors, so much so that she felt she could not remain as a nun and left.

Brunetti has a great deal of respect for the woman he saw how well she treated his mother and so he doesn't dismiss her fears, even though there is no evidence that anything amiss has happened. Luckily, it is a slow time at police headwaters and so he takes the case upon himself to investigate.

At first he suspects that nothing really happened and the young nun had perhaps used her fears about the deaths to help her get the courage to leave her calling. But then when she is hit on her bicycle in a terrible car crash and hospitalized, Brunetti feels that it was no accident and assigns her room to a policeman's watch.

Very much a quiet and thoughtful study of how police worked before the forensics side of investigation exploded, this book leans on how Commissario Brunetti solves crimes by questioning, paying attention to answers, knowing the background to the gossip around his beloved town when dealing with the wealthy and the high-born of society and having his intelligent wife and their friends to rely upon for any other information he needs.

Much of this book is a love note to Venice and how much attention and affection Brunetti has for it. We hear a lot about how the sunlight and weather and the people and their ways affect Brunetti as he goes about the business of crime-solving.

I was very surprised at how much anger was aimed at the Church by Brunetti's friends, family and colleagues including his wife and children. The readers also get an intimate sense of the food and the way the people of Venice live their lives. It was beautifully done and made me ready to get on the next gondola to see that city.

QUIETLY IN THEIR SLEEP is a great book about old-fashioned sleuthing before forensics became so important to the solving of crimes, as well as a fantastic story about Venice and the ways of the Italian people. It is a gentle book that covers some of the worst that a civilized society and religion can do to its weakest citizens. I am happy that I have discovered this series and I am happy to know that I have so many installments to read.

Reviewed by A. L. Katz, July 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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