Where I live, the weather is currently cold and the days are short. When Trace Elements takes place during a summer in Venice, it is as hot as hot can be. Clothes are sticking, meals need to be light and our detective, Guido Brunetti is mystified by the tourists who want to be in Venice at this miserable time. I could feel the heat and the need to drink mineral water. All of this is to say that Ms. Leon is a master at creating her scenes and characters. When Brunetti was eating his cheese and salad, I salivated. When I followed this essentially good man throughout the story, I wanted to know him and his colleagues as real people. When Brunetti was with his wife, Paola, I wanted a marriage like theirs. All of this adds verisimilitude to a novel that, in parts, is deeply tragic.
Tue story begins when Brunetti and a female colleague go to visit Benedetta, a women in hospice care, who is dying a miserable death from cancer. Readers will feel great sympathy for this character’s suffering. Before she dies, Benedetta presents Brunetti and Claudia Griffoni with something to investigate. They learn that Benedetta’s daughters are about to become orphans as Benedetta’s husband recently died in a crash. Was his death an accident? If it was murder how, if at all, does it relate to his job?
In Trace Elements (an apt title), the crime as it relates to Venice feels all too plausible. Ms. Leon has done her research and written a believable and sad tale of human corruption and its consequences. Wrong actions happen but the reasons for them differ.
This title is the latest entry in Donna Leon’s long running series about Guido Brunetti. It is a most excellent novel and I recommend it highly.