Synopses & Reviews
For over a decade, Donna Leon has topped European bestseller lists and captivated fans throughout the world with her series of mysteries featuring the shrewd, charismatic Commissario Guido Brunetti. Guiding us through contemporary Venices dark undercurrents of personal politics, corruption, and intrigue, Donna Leons is "crime writing of the highest order: powerful, relevant and too full of human failings" (The Guardian
This time, Commissario Brunetti faces an unsettling case that, because he is the father of a young son, hits him especially close to home. The body of a student has been found hanged in Venices elite, highly cloistered military academy. The young man is the son of a doctor and former politician, a member of Parliament who had an impeccable integrity all too rare in Italian politics. Dr. Moro is clearly devastated by his sons death, but while both he and his apparently estranged wife seem convinced that the boys death could not have been suicide, neither appears eager to help in the investigation of the mysterious circumstances in which he died. Bolstered by the help the elegant and crafty Signorina Elettra, and the cooking and sympathetic ear of his wife, Paola, Commissario Brunetti sets off on an investigation that gets him caught up in the strange and stormy politics of his countrys powerful elite.
When Brunetti plunges into Dr. Moros political career and the circumstances of the doctors estrangement from his wife, he discovers unsettling details. How to explain the mysterious hunting accident in which Signora Moro was involved, and the fact that her marriage crumbled so soon after? As he investigates, Brunetti is faced with a wall of silence, because the military, who protects its own, and civilians, even at the cost of their lives, are unwilling to talk. Is this the natural reluctance of Italians to involve themselves with the authorities, or is Brunetti facing something altogether darker?
Uniform Justice is a riveting, pitch-perfect murder mystery the work of a truly masterful storyteller. Conjuring contemporary Venice in exquisite and alluring detail, Donna Leon offers what has been widely hailed as the finest installment yet of the Commissario Guido Brunetti series.
"Classic, classy detective fiction, with its unique Venetian setting and a humane and down-to-earth protagonist." Manchester Evening News (UK)
"Despite the serious issues they raise, Leon's books shimmer in the grace of their setting and are warmed by the charm of their characters. As a thinking man, Brunetti reads Cicero for moral direction, looks to his wife for doses of cynical realism and humbly consults his secretary, the terrifyingly efficient Signorina Elettra, on practical matters. But it is as a man of sensibility that this endearing detective most engages us. On his slow walks through Venice, he will go out of his way to exchange greetings with a myna in a pet shop or admire a woman's legs in a coffee bar quietly celebrating the way life goes on, even in an unjust world." Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
"[Brunetti] long ago joined the ranks of the classic fictional detectives." T.J. Binyon, The Evening Standard (UK)
"A new Donna Leon book about Venice Police Commissario Guido Brunetti the 12th in a memorable series is ready for our immediate pleasure. Leon is probably the best mystery writer you've never heard of unless you've picked up her best-selling books at foreign airports or bought copies of the British editions on the internet. She uses the relatively small and crime-free canvas of Venice for riffs about Italian life, sexual styles and best of all the kind of ingrown business and political corruption that seems to lurk just below the surface." Dick Adler, The Chicago Tribune
"Theres atmosphere aplenty in Uniform Justice...Brunetti is a compelling character, a good man trying to stay on the honest path in a devious and twisted world." Jody Jaffe, The Baltimore Sun
"Superb....An outstanding book, deserving of the widest audience possible, a chance for American readers to again experience a master practitioners art." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"American readers, having endured seven long years without a new Guido Brunetti novel, can now celebrate the return of Leons world-weary Venetian commissario....Its high time this series earns the accolades in the U.S. it has been receiving in Europe for years." Bill Ott, Booklist (starred review)
"A powerful indictment of an Italian society." Kirkus Reviews
"Deeply sympathetic portrait of a truth-seeker at war with monied time-servers, but Brunettis reflections giving point and poignancy to the conflict." Literary Review
About the Author
Donna Leon has lived and taught in Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia.
Reading Group Guide
An Introduction to Uniform Justice
The snaking, unmarked streets of canal-crossed Venice provide the perfect backdrop for intrigue and mystery in Donna Leons Uniform Justice, a novel in this elegant mystery series featuring the affable Commissario Guido Brunetti.
Guido Brunetti is a born-and-bred middle-class Venetian who investigates murder and high crime among the patrician families of old Venice. From his headquarters at the Questura, Brunetti pieces together his cases with the help of a few clever colleagues: the beautiful secretary and researcher Signorina Elettra, the loyal Vianello, the persistent Pucetti, and the often duplicitous and self-aggrandizing Vice-Questore Patta. But the Commissario is not just another heartless, hard-nosed sleuth whose sole life goal is the pursuit of the criminal. Every night he comes home to his wife and children and must bear the burden of being witness to terrible crimes without allowing his work to affect his family life. This humanity tempers his sleuthing with humility and empathy, allowing him to delve more deeply into the minds of his adversaries and uncover clues he might not otherwise be privy to.
In Uniform Justice, Commissario Brunetti arrives at the elite San Martino Military Academy to investigate the suicide of Ernesto Moro, a young, promising cadet who turns out to be the son of a prominent government official. The students family denies that Ernesto was the kind of boy who could kill himself. The Commissario casts a skeptical eye on the original pronouncement of suicide, but the further he tries to delve into the events that led up to the young mans death, the more vague and openly hostile the military students become. Brunetti uncovers what may be a conspiracy to silence a report by Fernando Moro that would have blown the whistle on payola corruption in government spending. He sets out to accomplish the difficult task of proving that Ernesto Moros death was not suicide, but murder.
A longtime resident of Venice, Leon paints a perfectly rendered portrait of the citys clash of Old World charms and New World treachery with vibrant depictions so convincing that you can practically taste the spaghetti alla vongole and hear the din of the vaporettos in the canals. Every scene bursts forth with the minute detail and stylish prose of a master of the genre. Lovers of crime fiction will embrace Commissario Brunetti and his cohorts in this exhilarating new addition to the annals of mystery.
Questions for Discussion
1. Donna Leons stories paint a vivid picture of a Venice full of intrigue, with beauty and corruption in almost equal measures. How does the Venice of her books compare to the Venice of popular imaginationor to the real Venice?
2. Commissario Brunetti often uses his own experience (for example, as a loving father and husband) to understand the perpetrators motives. Do you think the antagonists are at all sympathetic characters? Why or why not?
3. A unique feature of Commissario Brunetti is that he comes home to a family he values above all else. In what ways does his being a family man make him a better detective? How does this compare to the typical characteristics of a great hero in mystery novels?
4. In your opinion, was Commissario Brunetti right to let Signor Moro make the decision about whether or not to pursue justice in his sons death? What might you have done in Signor Moros situation?
5. If, like Signor Moro, you knew that a report you were compiling about government corruption was endangering your familys lives, would you drop everything to save your family or pursue the truth in spite of threats? Would you be able to separate yourself from your family and live without them, as Signor Moro did, in order to save them?
6. Brunetti manages to conduct a casual conversation with Giuliano Ruffo, one of the students at the academy, before being pushed out the door by the barking Comandante. Why do you think Ruffo felt comfortable talking to Brunetti?
7. When Brunetti reaches for the phone to call Signora Moro, he says, Who was it whose gaze could turn people to stone? The Basilisk? Medusa? With serpents for hair and an open glaring mouth. What is the significance of these images?
8. Dottor Moro asks Brunetti whether or not he has read the short story The Death of Ivan Ilyich. How does this relate to Moros dilemma? What are the parallels between Moros life and Ivan Ilyichs?
9. When Signorina Elettra tells Brunetti the story of the girl who cried rape at the academy but never pressed charges, he replies, Tanto fumo, poco arrosto. Why does Brunetti add quickly, But thank God for the girl? Why does Signorina Elettra go cold upon hearing his response to the story? How did you react to Brunettis nonchalance? Was your first impulse to believe that the girl in the story was raped or not?
10. Brunetti uses scare tactics to force a confession from Filippis roommate, Cappellini. The testimony would not be permissible in any court of law, but his words sound more truthful than almost anything anyone else has been able to tell Brunetti. What purpose does this truth-serum affirmation serve to the rest of the story? Without it, could you have believed Filippis dramatic tale of suicide as an autoerotic accident?