Wow, I don’t even know where to go with this review. This book was super intense! I am definitely enjoying the Commissario Brunetti series a lot so far, mainly because I really like Brunetti himself. He isn’t darkly brooding, or dashing, or particularly heroic. He’s just a quiet, middle-aged man with a family who does his job faithfully every day because he believes in justice.
In this particular tale, Brunetti is assigned to investigate the murder of an important lawyer – a man who seemingly leads an upright, honest life. But as Brunetti begins to piece together who this man was behind the public face, and to connect the dots to two other murders, it becomes obvious that no one involved is as honest and honorable as they appear.
These books are not thrillers by any stretch. There is never a point where I fear for Brunetti’s life, or where I have to stay up until 2a.m. to find out what happens. But the stories are gripping nonetheless, and Leon is unafraid to kill people off to forward the tale, so I never really feel like anyone is safe, either. Mixed in with the story is Brunetti’s real love affair – with Venice. A native of that city, and now pledged to protect her, Brunetti’s love for Venice is a beautiful touch to these stories.
I also love Brunetti’s interactions with his family. His wife is a delight, his daughter sweet with just enough rebellion dashed in to keep her realistic, and his son working hard to become a man as well. Many of the underlying themes are revealed through Brunetti’s conversations with his family – it is a way for Leon to reveal different layers of what is at play behind the mystery.
Death and Judgment is a bit grim, if I’m honest. It is a book that felt like it should have come with a warning – there is an incredibly disturbing rape/murder scene that was far more gruesome than anything else I’ve found in these books so far. This mystery dealt a lot with sex trafficking and prostitution, and while Leon handles the subject well, she also challenges her readers to really think about the horror of this modern-day slavery. Brunetti is sickened by it, and so was I.
Leon also isn’t afraid to emphasize the many miscarriages of justice. There is never a guarantee with her writing that the bad guy is actually going to get what he deserves. While the stories conclude solidly, I am still sometimes left, as I was with this tale, with a vague feeling of disquiet.
But through it all, Brunetti does his best to do his job faithfully, unafraid to quietly challenge his superiors when needed. I can definitely recommend this series so far, but be forewarned about Death and Judgment – Leon is also unafraid to quietly challenge her readers to realize that we are not as civilized as we like to think, and perhaps we ought to be doing something about it.