Saturday, November 8, 2008

Book Review: Rutledge and Brunetti Solve the Crimes; Rea ders learn more

Donna Leon, Uniform Justice.
Penguin 2003. $7.99

Charles Todd, A False Mirror.
Harper 2007. $6.99


As inspectors Rutledge and Brunetti solve murders; readers learn more about life in post-World War I England; and, contemporary political and social life in Venice.

Both writers are USA born, but Leon, apparently spends most of her time in various places in Europe, mostly in Italy.

For years, the Leon books did not come to the US. It was only after the year 2000 that Leon's books were published in the US. Many of her books were written during the 1990s.

I've come to team up the writings of Charles Todd and Donna Leon as two mystery writers who have a very direct approach to writing. They are easy reading, but not fluff.

Todd's mystery involves a very good who done-it that folds in to the horrendous world war I battlefield experiences, mainly the Somme, of Inspector Rutledge and his tormentor Hamish. Never using the battle of the Somme as an excuse to commit murders and other bad things, Todd continues to give the reader a vivid understanding of post war trauma.

Donna Leon's writings often weave in strong left thinking, mostly Guido Brunetti's wife Paolo. Also, the well-documented corruption of the police is part and parcel of the books.

There is a reference that Leon has made in more than one of her mystery's saying that the health services in Italy have deteriorated to those of Cuba. Leon should get her facts straight on that reference. The Cuban health system is well known to be quite good. But, the deteriorating nature of the Italian system is correct. While Italy has a national health service, the best way to deliver health services; but it is locally financed, a very bad idea…social solidarity is lost. That means that in poorer sections of Italy, toward the South, the health services are poorly financed and therefore not good; as opposed to the North near Milan and Venice where the economy is stronger and health services better financed.

On the good side, Leon gives readers a raw insight into the Italian military industrial and political complex. Her character development keeps you guessing until the final pages when Commissario Brunetti determines the guilty parties; and, then what to do about it.

Another similar theme of both writers is the role of the church in England and Italy. You can imagine how that role is described.

These books would make your later Fall and early Winter reading for good.