New crime just in from Iceland and Venice is refreshing and bright, full of interesting glimpses of very different cultures and countries – the contrast between them, an Italian police procedural and an Icelandic psycho thriller, made for interesting reading…
Donna Leon’s Earthly Remains, is the 26th in her Commissario Brunetti series, set in his beautiful, beloved Venice, bursting with tourists, swathed in political corruption. Brunetti, fed up with his job, and the overwhelming heat of a Venetian summer, leaves his family at home to spend two weeks on an island in the lagoon, spending every day rowing on the mysterious waters with a waterman who tends beehives on tiny, remote islets. When Davide disappears, Brunetti follows the trail to discover what has happened – and why. This series increasingly addresses the very big problems that Venice faces, so beautiful, so unusual, it is being loved to death by the hordes that come to see and be amazed; and polluted to death by years of active disregard and then politically bound-up inaction. Leon’s Brunetti is a pleasure to read – he is humane, sardonic, food and book-loving, flawed but ultimately happy, with a family he likes and loves; a really refreshing change from the more common sad, traumatised, substance-abusing, family-estranging homicide detectives. Venice, as usual, is a lovely and interesting place to set a mystery, its unusual watery setting flavouring both the crime and its solving – this is not a series that is waning.
Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s The Legacy is the first in a new series featuring the Children’s House, a centre that treats traumatised young people. Freya works at the centre, and is asked to help with the police interviewing of a 7-year-old who hid under the bed while her mother was killed. Sigurdardottir’s thrillers are also informed by the environment her characters move through: spare, huge, very cold. She writes children really well, there have been a few of them in her thrillers, and her characters move within a society where both politics and social institutions are more overtly organised and efficient than say, Italy. From NZ, this feels more familiar.
People are very small here, and, in this book at least, which is dark and nasty and just what you want in a thriller, none of them seem to be enjoying life’s pleasures quite like the Italians are – but really, who does?