Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Italian crime: Donna Leon's latest on Radio NZ

Earlier today, as part of its daily book review slot on the Nine to Noon programme, Radio New Zealand addressed Donna Leon’s latest Commissario Brunetti novel, A QUESTION OF BELIEF.

One of the great things about the Nine to Noon show, hosted by Kathryn Ryan - who also regularly does interviews with New Zealand and visiting authors - is that they do semi-regularly cover some crime and thriller titles. They're also fascinating reviews to listen to, because rather than being just a print review of a reviewer's thoughts, Ryan 'interviews' the reviewer, and asks them questions about the book, drawing out comments. So it's more of a dialogue, than a monologue - which is a nice change of pace.

Today the reviewer was Gail Pittaway, who opens by saying of American-born Venice-based Donna Leon that “you’ve heard of the slow food movement, she’s the slow crime movement. She’s not a fast-paced, it’s not predictable, it’s meandering crime”, before noting that Leon’s books are all based around the “wonderful character” Guido Brunetti, a “plain clothes cop in Venice”.

“All of the books, including this one,” says Pittaway, “are really more... there’s horror, there’s corruption, there’s often extreme violence, but through it all Brunetti and his family are the core, of some central values that are still shimmering there in the heat of Venice.”

Pittaway and Ryan discuss Leon’s background, the “glorious details” of the Venice setting - “if you haven’t been to Venice, it just makes you want to go there”, and how not all the ends are tied up - “which is another feature of Donna Leon’s stories, they’re not complete, they’re like noir stories in that way, they kind of move away and not all of the ends are tied”.

You can listen to the full 9-minute review here. You can read more about A QUESTION OF BELIEF (e.g. publisher’s blurb on the plot) here.

I recently received a copy of A QUESTION OF BELIEF (which will be my first taste of Leon’s crime writing), and am now looking forward to it even more after hearing Pittaway’s review this morning. It is released in New Zealand this month.

Have you read any of Donna Leon’s earlier books? What do you think? What do you think of the Pittaway’s review? Does A QUESTION OF BELIEF sound like something you might enjoy? Italian/Mediterranean set crime? Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. Craig - Thanks for this interesting post. I like Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti series very much, and I'm eager to read A Question of Belief. I'm not sure I would exactly compare the series to noir stories, although I understand the point that Pittaway and Ryan are making. Still, on the whole, it seems a great review.

  2. Craig - I'm also interested in reading A Question of Belief. It has been released in Spain already. I think even before than in English, for a change.
    I've read already Death at La Fenice, Blood froma a Stone, Dressed for Death and a Noble Radiance.
    But even if you have been in Venice before, they just make you want to go there again.
    A bit light in my opinion but I like them.

  3. I too am a fan of Donna Leon ever since being introduced to her books while in Venice a few years ago.

  4. I love Donna Leon. I want to visit Venice because of her.