Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Leon: Friends in High Places

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After reading two stinkers, I needed a read I could rely on for a good fix. I needed escape, mixed with good food, good clothes and some social awareness. I needed Guido Brunetti, Donna Leon’s Venetian detective, and his smart, savvy wife Paula, and his family meals of pasta with soft shell crabs and risi e bisi, his children, his disgust for the politics that impinge on his doing his job.

If you think Kuwait has “wasta” (doing business by connections, influence, calling in favors), you aint’ seen nuthin’ till you’ve seen how Byzantine Venetians operate.

Friends in High Places opens with Commissario Brunetti lying on his couch re-reading Anabasis when he receives a visit from a building inspector, who determines that the apartment he owns, on the very top of a building in Venice, was probably built illegally – there are no plans or restoration approvals on file at the bureaucracy regulating residential buildings in Venice – and may have to be torn down.

Wouldn’t that be a shock? It’s a shock to Brunetti and to his family, just as it would be to us. We learn all the ins and outs of housing codes, the impact of becoming part of the EEC, and how the clever Venetians devise ways around the codes, all while Brunetti is investigating one murder – and then three other murders.

It is a VERY satisfying book. I will share with you a lengthy quote from Friends in High Places as Guido and Paola discuss how to deal with the problem:

At no time did it occur to him, as it did not occur to Paola, to approach the matter legally, to find out the names of the proper offices and officials and the proper steps to follow. Nor did it occur to either of them that there might be a clearly defined bureaucratic procedure by which they could resolve this problem. If such things did exist or could be discovered, Venetians ignored them, knowing that the only way to deal with problems like this was by means of conoscienze: acquaintances, friendships, contacts and debts built up over a lifetime of dealing with a system generally agreed, even by those in its employ, perhaps especially by those in it’s employ, prone to the abuses resultant from centuries of bribery, and encumbered by a Byzantine instinct for secrecy and lethargy.

I am sorry to tell you that the only copy of this I could find on Amazon.com cost $99.98. I must have bought this one in England, where, I promise you, it was the normal cost of a paperback book.

I will warn you in addition, I was looking forward to reading a second Leon novel, Quietly in their Sleep, only to discover when I started that I had already read it, as The Death of Faith. The books published by Leon in England are often retitled for the American market. Leon fans, beware!

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January 19, 2008 - Posted by | Books, Bureaucracy, Community, Crime, Fiction, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues, Venice

6 Comments »

  1. [...] Leon: Friends in High Places At no time did it occur to him, as it did not occur to Paola, to approach … discover when I started that I had already read it, as The Death of [...]

    Pingback by Leon: Friends in High Places | January 19, 2008 | Reply

  2. [...] Leon: Friends in High Places …to reading a second Leon novel, Quietly in their Sleep, only to discover when I started that I had already read it, as The Death of Faith. [...]

    Pingback by Leon: Friends in High Places | January 19, 2008 | Reply

  3. [...] Delmarva Dealings wrote an interesting post today on Leon: Friends in High PlacesHere’s a quick excerpt…his family meals of pasta with soft shell crabs and risi e bisi, his children, his disgust for the politics that impinge on his doing his… [...]

    Pingback by Politics » Leon: Friends in High Places | January 19, 2008 | Reply

  4. i know how u feel. i once started a book during a 6 hour flight with nothing else to entertain me only to discover 3 pages into the book that i had already read it. i wanted to cry

    Comment by Mrm | January 19, 2008 | Reply

  5. I’ve never heard of her. But Oh my God, the price u just mentioned! And why do they have different titles? Makes no sense. They all speak the same language!

    I get annoyed when the same books have different covers if they were sold in the U.S than if they were sold in the U.K.

    Comment by This Lady | January 20, 2008 | Reply

  6. Mrm! No! Holy smokes, I hope you had something else with you to pass the time. The movies on the planes recently have been AWFUL! Not even worth reading the titles!

    Lady, it is so frustrating when it happens. The Donna Leon books seem to be published first in England, later in the US. AAARRggghh. It’s comfort reading for me, sort of like toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup being comfort food on a cold winter’s day.

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 20, 2008 | Reply


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