Donna Leon's eighth novel in her Commissario Guido Brunetti series is another crown of glory for this American writer. In "Fatal Remedies," Leon, ever the one to keep her readers' absolute attention riveted to all details, continues her intriguing mise en scene mysteries with sharp focus, clarity of detail, and powerful character observations. This book is well worth the wait.
Leon begins with a new twist: Brunetti's wife Paola has been arrested for smashing the window of a travel agency which she knows arranges sex-tours to third-world countries where Westerners exploit, especially, the child-for-sex trade. This is an issue which Paola finds she cannot permit to go unnoticed, having two children of her own. Like Antigone, her sense of moral outrage at an issue the state does nothing about extends to the point where she takes the law into her own hands. Through her personal crusade, she hopes to call attention to this social canker and, with public outrage she hopes to generate this evil will be halted. She believes that she is prepared to take the consequences for her own actions. It is not so simple, she finds out. Unfortunately, she discovers that her own crusade has negative ramifications for her family and that instead of halting one injustice, she appears to be compounding another by hurting the ones she loves....Brunetti is called back to work and the chase begins.
Brunetti, whose passion for truth, justice, equality, and respect for his beloved Venice, finds himself once again forced to confront moral and legal dilemmas. Leon is at her best and "Fatal Remedies" doesn't miss a beat as the pace picks up, page by page...Leon is not one to dodge social and contemporary issues, as her readers well know from previous books. Her views on environmental destruction (and how the Italian government and its citizens view the subject), social and political corruption, and such social issues as sex-tourism and the importation of former East Bloc citizens to work the local prostitution trade are readily identified. And the author is not timid in her criticism. It's not that she is indicting Italy and the Italians, but that these ills seem to be pervasive.
Leon, an American, lives in Venice and knows the Italians well, but she has lived in other countries (previously she had taught English at an American university at the Vicenza U.S. Army post) and is well versed on contemporary issues. And she loves Venice. Each of her novels tenders her feelings for the Most Serene Republic and readers cannot escape without feeling the life, the very essence of Venice, and her knowledge of that city's history and its ethnic origins make her books ring with a resonance that is real yet we know her story is "only a novel."
In "Fatal Remedies," Leon counts on her readers to assume much (in fact, a first-time reader may be confused by references that are clear only from having read earlier works), which is a shortcoming of individual works in such series; however, as "a part of the whole" this book works well and contains all the ingredients Leon has so successfully concocted in the past. The publisher tells us that she is currently working on a new installment. Shall we count the days?