Fantasy, Reality, Reviews and Drama Lessons from Gordon A. Long
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I have reviewed the “Commissario Guido Brunetti” series before, but I want to review another one, because there are worthy aspects of this author’s writing that showed themselves particularly in this book.



Genre
Yes, this is a detective novel, but, as I mentioned in the other review, Leon is far more interested in the interplay of people and ideas than she is in solving mysteries. Without saying enough to spoil your read of the novel, I can tell you that she has gone one step further in this book. In fact, the main question from the beginning of the tale is, “Has a murder been committed?”



Characters
Another part of Leon’s technique I must comment on is her skill with character portrayal. It is pretty normal in detective novels to have a hero who is one of the few sane people in the department, and his immediate superior is the first candidate for idiocy. This plays to good effect with many readers (who hasn’t had a boss that was an manipulating twit?) and has become rather a detective mystery cliché. So if an author is going to play that card, it better be done properly.
Leon’s technique is to present meetings between the two, but downplay the superior’s speech and action, instead choosing to spend the reader’s time inside the detective’s head, as he applies his observational skills to his boss’s mood, speculates on his motivation, and predicts where he will deviate next. Then Brunetti walks out and solves his mystery in his own way, disregarding his superior completely. We all feel vindicated.



Oops!
It is always entertaining to catch an author, even one you enjoy, falling prey to a standard writing mistake. In this book, it is the opening. It is common for an author to start writing a novel with a wonderful idea for a first chapter, which will segue smoothly into the rest of the story. Then the poor author writes the rest, only to discover at the end that the original chapter, beautiful though it might be, has nothing to do with the story.
This is the case with “Drawing Conclusions.” The introductory chapter is an entrancing story all on its own of a woman who is returning from breaking off a promising relationship in a rather abrupt way. Through masterful storytelling, Leon runs us through the backstory as the woman approaches home, keeping us interested all the way through. Then the woman finds the body. And disappears from the story.
We see Leon desperately trying to keep the original witness in focus, as Brunetti talks about interviewing her for 10 chapters before getting around to it. Then he discovers, as we knew all along, that her discovery was coincidental, her broken affair has nothing to do with the mystery, and she basically doesn’t belong in the story at all. It was a great opening chapter; Leon should have saved it for another book.


Recommended for fans of “real novels” as well as murder mysteries. Four stars out of five.

 
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