Official justice being arbitrary in Donna Leon's gorgeously written but deeply melancholic Venetian police procedurals, the task of her detective, Commissario Guido Brunetti, isn't so much to solve a crime as to find a way of bearing the pain and horror of it. The Girl of His Dreams, the 17th book in this superlative series, restates Leon's theme with more intensity than usual
The New York Times
Political reality prevails over justice, and a child's death goes unpunished despite the best efforts of Commissario Guido Brunetti in Leon's 17th Venetian mystery. When 11-year-old Ariana Rocich drowns in a canal and goes unidentified for days, she begins to haunt Brunetti's dreams. But Ariana is a Rom, or gypsy, found with stolen jewelry items secreted in and on her person, a discovery that makes Brunetti's investigation particularly sensitive in the face of new departmental directives regarding multicultural issues. The book opens with the funeral of Brunetti's mother before segueing into a subplot about a religious charlatan; so religion, as well as politics, becomes a topic around the family table for Brunetti, wife Paola, daughter Chiara, and son Raffi. A devoted family man, Brunetti is deeply principled if not overtly religious: his character and moral compass in the face of bureaucracy evoke as much interest as the crimes he sets out to solve. American-born Leon describes her longtime home of Venice lovingly, and the ethical grounding she gives this novel lifts it above the norm. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ1/08.]
Commissario Guido Brunetti, of the Venetian Questura, pursues a pair of very different cases to equally inconclusive ends. At the gravesite following the funeral of his mother, Guido Brunetti meets Padre Antonin Scallon, a schoolfriend of Brunetti's brother who has been doing missionary work in Africa. Brunetti has never liked Scallon, so he's surprised when the priest asks his help in getting information about Brother Leonardo Mutti, leader of the Children of Jesus Christ. Agreeing to investigate Mutti, Brunetti (Suffer the Little Children, 2007, etc.) ends up spending considerably more time investigating Scallon himself before he's abruptly pulled away from his inquiries by an ugly discovery. A Romany girl is found drowned in the Grand Canal with two pieces of readily identifiable jewelry that didn't belong to her. Because of a lack of cooperation, the mystery of the girl's death looks even more impenetrable than Brunetti's investigation of the two rival preachers. The investigations are linked only by the establishment's hatred and fear of interlopers who threaten its control. By no means a model of plot construction, but as heartfelt and moving as Brunetti's best.
" Gorgeously written . . . the seventeenth book in this superlative series restates Leon's themes with more intensity than usual."
-Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review