The Girl of His Dreams

Nothing wears thinner faster than a crime series. Given that fact, Donna Leon?s 17th Commissario Brunetti mystery should be her weakest, for we know Leon?s Venice so well by now and we know Brunetti, his family, and his colleagues so intimately. Instead, The Girl of His Dreams is one of Leon?s best: a cunning, deceptively simple novel that exposes a modern nether world within her dreamy city. Brunetti?s introduction to that world is the body of a dead child floating in a canal. "Silk. It felt like silk. He latched his fingers around the strands and pulled gently?. As he backed up one step it floated closer, and the silk spread out and wrapped itself around his wrist." The girl was 11 years old, the daughter of a Gypsy or Rom family. Pathology reports reveal the presence of a sexually transmitted disease. "When he read the age of the dead child, Brunetti lowered the papers to the desk and turned his head to gaze out the window?. A pine tree stood at the far corner, some sort of a fruit tree a few metres in front of it, so Brunetti saw the sweet green of the still unfolded leaves outlined against the darker green of the needles." The girl?s story comes to the fore halfway through a novel that opens with the funeral of Brunetti?s mother, wonderfully rendered, and that also includes Brunetti?s investigation of a new Christian sect. Familiar themes recur (the power of corrupt politicians, of the Catholic Church, of the faded aristocracy), and familiar characters -- such as Brunetti?s pompous superior, his loyal subordinate, his omnipotent secretary, and his enduringly perceptive wife -- act predictably. Brunetti, however, has become more permeable and more interesting, as has Leon?s supremely entertaining -- and thoughtful -- fiction.

July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.