ACQUA ALTA

Donna Leon, Author . Penguin $7.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-14-200496-8

In Leon's fifth Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery, the beating of renowned art historian Dotoressa Brett Lynch draws the contemporary Venetian police detective out of his warm and loving home and into the yearly onslaught of acqua alta, the torrential winter rains. Brett, an American who spearheaded a recent exhibition of Chinese pottery in Venice, lives with her lover, Flavia Petrelli, the reigning diva of La Scala. With his open mind and good sense, Brunetti finds himself more fazed by Flavia's breathtaking talent than by the nontraditional relationship between the two women. Brunetti's deliberate and humane investigation to uncover a motive for Brett's beating takes him to dark, wet corners of Venice and into a sinister web of art theft, fakery and base human desires. While there may be a whiff of stereotype in Brunetti's assumptions about a character of Sicilian heritage, the action builds to a dramatic and deeply satisfying climax. Intricate and intimate descriptions of Venetian life fill these pages and prove that Leon has once again created a high-stakes mystery in which the setting vibrates with as much life as the story itself. Agent, Susanne Bauknecht at Diogenes (Switzerland). (Sept.)

Forecast: Last year's release of Uniform Justice, Leon's first U.S. novel since 1996, to great acclaim heralded a Leon revival in this country. This will help keep the momentum going.

Reviewed on: 08/16/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
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