Good Reading : July 2015
GOOD READING JULY 2015 47 Falling in Love Donna Leon Donna Leon returns to the drama of opera as the backdrop for her latest ‘Commissario Brunetti’ novel. Flavia Petrelli, one of Italy’s finest living sopranos, has returned to La Fenice opera house in Venice to sing the lead in Puccini’s Tosca. On opening night, as she takes her final bow to a standing ovation, dozens of yellow roses land at her feet. When she returns to her dressing room it’s chock-a-block with roses. Outside the apartment she is renting for the duration of the run there are more roses; there are so many that she has a problem reaching the door. Most prima donnas would be appreciative of such anonymous devotion. But Flavia is distressed by this excess, as something similar had happened in London and St Petersburg. She fears she’s being followed by a wealthy but demented stalker. At a dinner party she mentions her concerns. One of the guests, Commissario Guido Brunetti, agrees to ‘look into it’, but in his mind he gives the melodramatic gesture a low priority. When two people to whom Flavia has shown affection are ser iously injured, Brunetti suspects jealousy as the motive. Catching the stalker becomes a top priority. Police protection is arranged, Signorina Elettra’s enviable computer skills are employed, and Vice-Questore Patta’s fears of budget overspending are allayed. Away from police headquarters, Brunetti and Sergeant Vianello – who worked hard to gain promotion to Ispettore but has been demoted – take us behind the scenes at the opera house. Tension mounts, the stalker is unmasked and the dramatic denouement plays out on centre stage. This is an engaging mystery in which the joys of life and the fight against cr ime are nicely balanced. ★★★ Heinemann $29.99 Reviewed by Clive Hodges CRIME FICTION WOM word of mouth RATINGS ★ ★ ★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ RG The Slaughter Man Tony Parsons Detective Constable Max Wolfe – handsome and divorced – is the father of Scout, his five-year-old daughter, and the owner of Stan, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. They live in the loft of a house close to London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. The friendly Murphy family inhabits the floors below, and fortunately they willingly take over responsibility for Scout and Stan at a moment’s notice. Wolfe is called out to a cr ime scene where a mother, father and their two teenage children have been murdered.The modus operandi is similar to that used in a gruesome killing that happened over 20 years ago. Peter Nawkins, nicknamed the Slaughter Man by the press, was prosecuted and jailed for life. But Peter Nawkins is now out on bail. The senior officer in charge, Detective Chief Inspector Patricia Whitestone, is fearless, frequently fails to plan ahead and takes unnecessary risks, putting the lives of her unar med team in jeopardy. Whitestone should have been severely reprimanded very early in the book and placed behind a desk at headquarters. Eventually her luck runs out and the consequences are devastating. In no way is this a cosy murder mystery. Extreme violence, an acid attack, shotgun fire, paedophilia and other depravity are all thrown at the reader. Detective Wolfe is attacked so often and receives so many ser ious injur ies that I began to suspect he was nar rating from beyond the grave. The short, sharp chapters and brisk pacing held my attention to the end. Somewhat gung-ho in parts, this novel is exciting, repugnant and not for the faint-hearted. ★★★ Century $32.99 Reviewed by Clive Hodges Chief Inspector Patricia Whitestone, is fearless, frequently fails to plan ahead and takes unnecessary r isks, putting the lives of her unarmed team in jeopardy. Whitestone should have been severely repr imanded very early in the book and placed behind a desk at headquarters.