Review

The Girl of His Dreams: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery

by Donna Leon

THE
GIRL OF HIS DREAMS is Donna Leon's 17th police procedural featuring
Commissario Guido Brunetti, the warm-hearted cop who reads the
classics and gets his greatest joy from his family. The novel opens
upon a gloomy scene at a graveside service in honor of Guido's
mother. With him are his wife, Paola, daughter Chiara and son
Raffi. His brother, Sergio, and some of Sergio's children also
represent the immediate family. As he stands there looking at the
slash in the earth that will be his mother's resting place, Guido
is flooded with sorrow and memories.

Monday is the day that Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta, Guido's
immediate superior, returns from a two-week conference in Berlin
that focused on international police cooperation against the Mafia.
Guido seeks the comfort of his office and is told that a priest has
come to talk to him: "Padre Antonin was the priest who had given
the final blessing over his mother's coffin; he was Sergio's friend
and not his, [although] Guido had known Antonin for decades, since
he and Sergio had been schoolboys. After middle school, the
brothers had gone to different schools, and so Antonin fell out of
Brunetti's orbit." As time went on, "Antonin decided to enter the
seminary, and from there he'd gone to Africa as a
missionary…and then, about four years ago, Antonin was back
in Venice, working as a chaplain…and living with the
Dominicans in their mother's house beside the Basilica."

Guido greets his old acquaintance with equanimity, and once the
small talk fades, he asks the priest why he had come. Antonin
answers the question by telling him a short story about one of his
parishioners who has a son who seems headed for big trouble. This
leads Guido to a gentleman named Brother Leonardo, whose surname is
Mutti. He is selling himself as a spiritual father to a small
gathering of people who call themselves "The Children of Jesus
Christ" and are seeking "the answer." At his meetings he tells his
flock that they have a duty to help the poor, and like lemmings
they all give him money hidden inside their envelopes. Antonin
would like information about this man, and Guido wants to know if
he really is who he says he is.

Paola Brunetti is an educated woman who comes from a background of
luxury and money. She teaches English literature and often guides
her husband to books that may help him through a rough patch. Her
mother, the Countess, is a charming lady with connections
everywhere, especially in religious channels. Guido turns to the
Countess for help in getting as much information as he can about
Mutti.

Out of the blue, Guido is summoned by his blustering superior,
Patta, for a discussion about being sensitive to the differences in
people coming into Venice and to embrace their ways. He is
referring specifically to the number of gypsies or, in PC language,
the Rom. These groups use their children to steal from tourists and
residents, and grab anything they can. They are bold and are rarely
even taken in for questioning. Patta tries to be circumspect but is
clumsy and power crazy. Soon after this dialogue with Patta, Guido
and Paola have dinner with her parents. But the Countess says
nothing of her inquiries, leaving Guido with a sense of ease, and
he decides to let go of Antonin's request and move on with his
work.

The next morning, Guido and his friend and colleague Vianello
retrieve the body of a gypsy girl floating in a canal. No one
reported a missing child or called to inquire if a 10-year-old girl
had shown up anywhere. Meanwhile, the investigation moves on and
takes several unexpected turns. Guido and Vianello are experienced
detectives and have worked many cases involving children, but that
doesn't make this one any easier. The idea of a dead child with no
one to claim her eats at Guido, and soon he finds himself having
nightmares about her and the crime. The most frustrating part about
this case is that Guido knows to whom the child belongs.
Nevertheless, he is helpless to do anything about it.

Donna Leon delivers a full-blown cast of well-limned characters who
are consistently fresh and have interesting lives. The puzzles and
conundrums she devises are always suspenseful, which makes for
fast-paced reading. 

Loyal fans have become very attached to Guido Brunetti and his
family, as well as his colleagues. In each book the man transcends
the petty nonsense of the workplace and is always aware of his
responsibilities and how to prioritize them. He works to keep his
loved ones safe, well, happy and together. After that he seeks
justice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Here Leon gives
him a wide berth, and he usually comes up with the right answer,
either by himself or through intimate conversations with Paola. All
of Leon's books are wonderful reads, and THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS
stands tall among them.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 22, 2011

The Girl of His Dreams: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery
by Donna Leon

  • Publication Date: May 13, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
  • ISBN-10: 0871139804
  • ISBN-13: 9780871139801