Two contrasting crime novels this week, one set in Venice and one in Los Angeles. First up, the latest Brunetti book by Donna Leon, Falling in Love.
I freely admit that the last three Brunetti books, and a stand alone title published last year, I found very disappointing and gave the impression that Leon was tiring of her creation but was bound to a contract to write a certain number. I found them lacklustre and rather hurried so was slightly apprehensive of how I would enjoy this one. It is much better I am happy to say. The first Brunetti, Death at La Fenice, married the worlds of murder and opera and as the story was set in one of my favourite cities in the world, was irresistible and lead me to read all of her output.
Since then the opera house burned down but has now been rebuilt so Leon is back to her first setting in which it is clear she feels very comfortable. The opera singer, Flavia Petrelli, a suspect in the first novel, is back at the opera house to sing Tosca and is very uncomfortable with a persistent fan who sends yellow roses wherever she goes. Used to adoring fans it becomes clear that she is being stalked by a very persistent admirer who attacks a young singer who Petrelli praised to warn her that the star belongs to her. Yes, her as we find the shadowy fan is a woman.
It all ends up in a finale on the stage after the final performance of Tosca with all its operatic connotations where Petrelli shows she has more in common with Floria Tosca than supposed....
One thing I always notice when I read these books is how the final solution always takes place in a few pages. The reader is immersed in the book and thinking gosh this is getting good and then realises that there are only twenty or so pages left. Happened again this time. I enjoyed it and pleased to be able to say I did after my lukewarm reaction to the last few, but gosh I am finding Brunetti's wife Paola increasingly annoying and rather marginal nowadays to the thrust of the books. Brunetti comes home for lunch as he seems to do daily 'There's frittata with zucchini and stuffed turkey breast' says Paola and then for dessert, pumpkin and raisin cake. And all this done while reading Henry James 'Truth, beauty, elegant prose, lacerating psychological penetration, thrilling dialogue'.
I will say no more.
A relief to turn to The 3rd Woman by Jonathan Freedland. Freedland has been the Guardian correspondent in Washington and a reporter for the Washington Post and for BBC news. Seems this is his first book under his own name having written several bestsellers under the name, Sam Bourne. Always puzzles me when writers suddenly decide drop an alias. If it was not important why do it in the first place?
Never mind, he has written a terrific book which I found a slow burner but persisted with. Lots of characters to introduce and scenes to set and it is important to take your time and get all this in your consciousness in order to then enjoy the cracking story. It is written from the perspective of a journalist, Madison Webb, and you soon forget this is a male writer as he is totally at ease with the female persona he has taken on as author. I suppose being a journalist makes it easy. Madison is a reporter obsessed with exposing lies and corruption and leads a busy, somewhat narrow focused life when she is shocked out of it by the murder of her own sister, Abigail. She is found dead of an overdose of heroin and, at first, the police decide it was an accident but when Madison discovers at least two other women who have died in the same way, she is determined to prove there is a serial killer on the loose.
OK no more. Just to say that there is a conspiracy behind all this, a mayoral election is taking place with all the wheeling and dealing involved, Madison is followed, bugs placed in her home, a friend is knocked down in a hit and run and all sorts of dark shadowy figures are at work. I can already seen the film in my mind's eye.
An excellent read and tightly written and plotted. I loved it.
And, naturally, I am now off to read the books by one Sam Bourne....
NB - These books are to be published in April and July respectively but there is nothing stopping you putting them on your wishlist or pre-ordering. Both available for the Kindle.