Leon, Donna - 'Falling in Love'
As with the first book from Donna Leon, DEATH AT LA FENICE, the story opens with the Opera at La Fenice in Venice, where Commissario Brunetti and his wife Paola are listening to Tosca, and watching the dramatic ending, where Tosca leaps to her death. Flavia Petrelli is singing the role of Tosca, and she and Brunetti met before in the first book, where she was once again singing in the opera, so many years ago. As Flavia takes her bows, a cascade of yellow roses falls onto the stage from an unknown admirer, and when she returns to her dressing room, she finds it full of yet more yellow roses in an assortment of vases. There is no note, no hint of the identity of the rose-giver and Flavia finds this unsettling. When she returns home to her apartment and finds yet more yellow roses strewn outside the door, she starts to become very concerned. She mentions it to Brunetti a couple of days later, over dinner at his in-laws' house, but then Brunetti is precipitated into an investigation when a young singer, Francesca, whom Flavia had earlier praised, is pushed down some steps and left for dead. Is this somehow linked to the unwanted attentions from Flavia's admirer. Are they taking their obsession with Flavia too far?
Against this, and providing some light relief from the tension, is the general bizarreness of the Questura. Signorina Eletra, secretary to the Vice-Questore, Lieutenant Patta, is on strike. The computer is switched off, and she is reading a copy of French Vogue magazine when Brunetti turns up to ask for her help. She is on strike because she believes Patta has suspended Officer Alvise without pay, on a trumped up charge that he used violence on some demonstrators at a recent protest. Alvise, who is never violent, but whom Patta dislikes, has borne the brunt of his enmity. Fortunately, she is not on strike for Brunetti, and quickly helps him to find CCTV coverage of the bridge where Francesca was pushed over. But, the identity of the attacker is unclear.
Slowly the investigation progresses, against the background of comedic events inside the Questura, and the more serious and threatening behaviour of the unknown attacker outside. Numerous possibilities are gradually whittled down, until finally the attacker leaves a clue that helps to solve the crime.
As always, a gentle and intriguing look at life in Venice, the vagaries of the police force, and a sharp and clever investigation from Brunetti mixed in a delightful way, is at the heart of this novel. Another enjoyable outing for this complex, intelligent detective.
Michelle Peckham, England