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by Donna Leon
Penguin, September 2007
320 pages
ISBN: 0143112422

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In the middle of the night, police arrest a middle-aged woman. This woman claims responsibility for the destruction of a storefront window so the police have no choice in the matter. As the woman is Comissario Brunetti’s wife, Paola, this situation quickly becomes complicated.

Paola damaged the travel agency’s window because the agency offers travel packages to third world countries where there are underage prostitutes. While the trips are not offered using these terms, everyone knows that the trips to Thailand and other countries are to take advantage of local prostitution. Paola is against sex tourism and is furious that trips can be legally offered.

Brunetti does not necessarily agree with his wife’s actions, but he will stand behind her decision and still support her even though that means he is forced into ‘administrative leave.’

Then the travel agency’s owner, Paolo Mitri, is discovered murdered and Brunetti is called back to work. Someone has taken advantage of Paola’s actions and is using sex tourism as the excuse for murder. Brunetti is sure that the situation is not as simple as it appears. He must dig into the victim’s family and social relationships in order to find a motive for the murder.

In addition, he must deal with the consequences of Mafia actions. A man was willing to testify against the mob until his wife was killed. Brunetti must discover what he can about the situation in hopes of finding closure for those affected.

Like many crimes in Venice, there are numerous levels to these investigations and Brunetti finds himself using slightly illegal methods to get the answers he needs. Even though Brunetti holds no sympathy for Mitri, he cannot accept murder as an answer. Only by solving this murder, will Brunetti’s sense of justice be satisfied.

Like all of Donna Leon’s books, FATAL REMEDIES takes on many contemporary and controversial issues. The use of sex tourism and the government’s difficulties in preventing and eliminating these tours are merely two examples. This book also looks into government corruption and the hidden power within the city. It looks at relationship structures in that Brunetti is unwilling to make decisions for his wife. When he is told that a bribe would hush up Paola’s arrest, he tells them that they should speak with Paola as she is responsible for her own actions.

I enjoy reading Donna Leon’s books. While her narrative can at times be dry, overall her books are well-plotted and entertaining. Brunetti’s drive for justice and Paola’s drive for equality and for doing what is right provides an engaging counterpoint and adds depth to the story. By combining these two viewpoints, Leon’s narratives look beyond the traditional police procedural and attempts to provide a glimpse into true life.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, October 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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