On a cold Venetian night, shortly before Christmas, a street vendor is killed in a scuffle in Campo San Stefano. The closest witnesses are the tourists who had been browsing the man's wares: fake handbags of every designer label. The dead man had been working as a vu cumpra, one of the many African immigrants purveying goods outside normal shop hours and without work permits. Commissario Brunetti's response is that of everybody involved: why would anyone kill an illegal immigrant? Once Brunetti begins to investigate this unfamiliar Venetian underworld, he discovers that matters of great value are at stake. Warned by Patta, his supervisor, to resist further involvement in the case, how far will Brunetti be able to penetrate the murky subculture of Venice's illegal community?
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This is the 3rd of this series that I've listened to. I enjoyed "Fatal Remedies" and "Doctored Evidence" so much that bought this one before finishing the 2nd one. (NOTE: All of the books in this series are not available in audiobook format. However, each novel stands on its own without much passage of time between them so the reader is able to jump around, even skipping several without much negative impact.).
This book plods along with usual slow pace that the author seems to embrace, with much "stage business" like describing a person flicking imaginary lint from his or her clothing or the biting the lower lip in a contemplative manner while pondering a question asked. The reader is given indepth descriptions of Venice and the customs and mores of all of its disparate citizens. One can almost smell the canals, the crush of humanity on a hot humid day, or the bouquet of a very excellent wine at a sidewalk cafe. We become one with main character, Commissario Guido Brunetti, and his colleagues at the police department. Several reviewers have complained about the unbelievable amount of time that the author spends on telling us about Brunetti's personal life with his wife and two teenaged children. I agree that it is a bit overdone but somehow doesn't take away from the real story of rampant criminal behaviors in Italy (from common pickpockets to the highest political arenas in the country), the investigation of complex crime plots and, finally, the successful resolution leading to arrests - although not necessarily CONVICTION, since that depends on the socio-economic status of the perpetrator(s). That's seems to be the only reason that Brunetti has a job at all! If not for him, every poor Italian or illegal immigrant charged with murder - especially the Africans - would be lynched in the center of the Venetian version of Times Square ("Tempo Piazza", perchance?) after a very quick, very unfair trial. But I like Commissario Brunetti, Venice, his family, and his intelligent way of solving crimes against very difficult obstacles, including his immediate supervisor. I've learned a lot about the country, and even more about great foods and wines from Brunetti's wife, a fantastic cook. I've even picked up a fair amount of Italian "survival phrases" in just 3 books. Narrator David Colacci is outstanding! He's a master at all of the numerous dialects and accents in Italy, plus France, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Senegal, Sierra Leone, etc. - you name it, he can do it! All while reading in English with a decidedly non-regional American accent.
OK, that's my take on the overall series. As for THIS particular story, I was a bit disappointed. Usually the reader doesn't get the "reveal" until a few chapters from the end and even then, there's another unexpected plot twist. We are normally introduced to the murder within the first 20 minutes of the story. Next, we are "forced" - not in a bad way - to wade through hours of stage business, dozens of reoccurring secondary and non-reoccurring tertiary characters, needless dialogue, food preparation, plating, and devouring, in-depth location descriptions, police investigations (with much MIS-investigations from the higher-ups), Brunetti's illegal and often unethical undercover investigations with his personal team of "Untouchables" - until suddenly we all get the actual crime, why the murder (or murders) had to go down, and whom is responsible. Good stuff!
Here, the whole tapestry of the plot unravels within the first few paragraphs of the book. Follow me.....this is not a spoiler, just plain common sense that Sherlock Holmes' DOG could deduce: A broad daylight execution of a street vendor in Venice by two swarthy-looking guys recruited from Italy's version of "The Dirty South", i.e., Sicily. They use small caliber revolvers with silencers. The kill is up close, clean, and efficient. The victim is African. Once that tidbit is juxtaposed with the words in the title "blood" and "stone", it doesn't take a rocket scientist - or, in this case, a certified gemologist - to figure out where the story is going. The Mafia wasn't contracted over a bunch of knock-off Louis Vuitton purses! After the first 15 minutes, I was not desperate enough to salivate over the description of thyme-infused grilled skirt steak with creamy polenta and a glass of Badia A Coltibuono to commit an additional 8.5 hours to this book! No, grazie, i miei amici da Audible.com! Arrivederci!
- Linda Lou "OCD over books, listening to 1 a day; ANY genre, fact & fiction. Influenced by Audible reviewers so I keep mine unbiased - FRONT to BLACK!"
At times this was the sterotypical contemporary detective story with corny novel/audiobook devices like Italian accented English (to make us believe we are following "authentic" Venetians in the storyline) and Italian phrases and cuisine thrown in to make us further feel an "exotic" setting -- BUT, overall, it was superior to most in that genre. Superior, that is, if you are looking for a mystery/ detective listen with a reasonable storyline and no graphic sex or violence, as I do. What raises this to a four star listen is 1. the excellent narration and 2. the presentation of a social justice issue (conflict diamonds), well addressed in the guise of fiction without being pedantic.
These are a novel and author I would never have downloaded had it not been for the free first chapter to capture my interest. I will download more of Leon now, especially since a couple of her well-rated listens are so well-priced.