GUIDO Brunetti is enjoying the weekend off and time to himself when a young bureaucrat pays him a visit to discuss issues relating to his apartment. A few days later, the young man dies after falling off a scaffolding at a construction site. The circumstances of his death and the events preceding it compel Brunetti, a commissario of the Venetian police, to look into the matter. His investigations lead him to the crimes of drug abuse and loan sharking, neatly overlooked by the authorities (it appears that the criminals have friends in high places) and he is compelled to use his own connections to solve the crime.
‘Friends in High Places’ is the ninth book in Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti series and is an easy read, suitable for adults (including teens) interested in crime fiction. It took me two days of leisurely and irregular reading to finish the book.
Although the plot is suitably intricate, I couldn’t help but feel it was over too soon and wished there was more. I must commend Leon for giving the reader an adequate background of Venice (Leon is American), and makes the city even more appealing for its ancient structures, abundant waterways and the lifestyle of the Venetians. She makes Brunetti a real and accessible protagonist — something I find especially endearing. It’s nice to read about a crime buster who has a normal family, has squabbles with his wife whose father is a member of the upper echelons of the Venetian political hierarchy, who has a boss he doesn’t quite like and who struggles with the apathy and lackadaisical attitudes of the people he works with.
Interestingly, I learnt from a website that Leon’s books were originally only published in Great Britain. Apparently her books were too intellectual for the American market. Odd, that.
Leon was born in New Jersey in 1942, but lived abroad since 1965. She has worked as a tourist guide in Rome, a copywriter in London, an English teacher at American schools in Switzerland, Iran, China and Saudi Arabia. She moved to Venice in 1981.