Guido Brunetti and I are old friends, so Donna Leon’s The Waters of Eternal Youth was a welcome connection. This twenty-fifth in the mystery series featuring an erudite Italian inspector has me visiting Venice again; a wealthy little old lady – albeit a countess – is the catalyst for an investigation of her granddaughter’s near-drowning fifteen years earlier.
Manuela, the beautiful fifteen year old who loved horses and feared the water, was saved from drowning when she fell into the canal, but not before losing consciousness for too long and suffering brain damage. She is now thirty and has the mental capacity of a seven year old. Her grandmother is convinced her falling into the canal was not an accident, and asks for the case to be reopened. Although the statute of limitations would preclude any consequences if a villain were found, Brunetti decides to reopen the case, as a favor to his mother-in-law.
The alcoholic who saved Manuela suddenly remembers something, but before Brunetti can question him, the man is brutally killed. In his clever and quiet way, Brunetti follows the trail that leads to a rapist turned murderer. After the climax of catching the criminal, Leon offers a satisfying denouement that brought tears to my eyes.
As a long-time resident of Venice, Donna Leon paints a credible picture of the canals and bridges, with an insider’s knowledge of neighborhoods and eating places. She sprinkles the narrative with comments on historical preservation, housing problems, and the new influx of African migrants.
Like most Italians, Brunetti enjoys a good meal and Paola, his patient wife, is not only an expert Italian cook but also a university professor of literature. Food is often enhanced with references to the classics. When not eating or investigating, Brunelli ponders – while reading a book in the original Greek, or connecting criminal motives to that of Macbeth or Dante.
Reading another of Guido Brunetti’s crime-solving adventures offers the unique combination of Italian culture with crime mystery.
Review of another Donna Leon Mystery: By Its Cover