I made sure to download a few to my Kobo eReader for the long plane rides to and from Paris.
Peter Robinson's Abattoir Blues is his 22nd DCI Banks book, and it satisfies those who like the series for setting, adding in some gnarly images of the Yorkshire moors in snow and hail, as well as taking us into some of the area's caves. Inspector Banks has just enjoyed a pleasant weekend with his new romantic interest in her family home in Italy, but there's a sense this relationship (with a considerably younger woman) may not last. We have some hope, then, that he and DS Annie Cabot may eventually do something about their obvious chemistry. Annie is healing well from psychological trauma which, along with serious physical injury, was sustained several books ago. And a new character is introduced who may or may not recur, but who, meanwhile, provides some interest for Winsome Jackman. No, don't ask me any more. My lips are sealed. You'll have to read it yourself. . .
While Abattoir Blues is the most recent in Peter Robinson's DCI Banks' series, I've gone back to the beginning of Donna Leon's Commisario Brunetti mysteries after reading About Face last year. I started with Death at La Fenice towards the end of 2014, and then moved on to the second in the series, Death in a Strange Country, on the plane back home. We've been thinking quite a bit about Italy since our trip there last summer, and now that our daughter has moved to Rome with her family, we're keen to find out as much as we can about La Bella Vita! To that end, I've just finished Anthony Doerr's splendid Four Seasons in Rome (the author of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, he spent a year on fellowship in Rome with his wife and infant twins). Donna Leon's books, of course, are set in Venice, not Rome, and they're fiction, not non-fiction, but they nonetheless give a strong sense of the bureaucracy, corruption, and inefficiency of many institutions and much infrastructure while simultaneously focusing on the importance of family, the appreciation of beauty in its many facets, and, always, the central significance of food.
As did About Face, written much later, Death in a Strange Country points a particularly harsh light at Italy's tolerance (whether legal or illegal, deliberate or passive) of gross environmental damage in its disposal of industrial by-products. Leon goes further, though, and indicts a wider sweep of First World countries as complicit in this practice. The novels never, to me at least, become overly pedantic on the issue, but the two I've read so far that address the problem certainly don't pull any punches. And, as I suggest above, these novels balance their environmental message with an emphasis on Brunetti's family life. We're happy voyeurs when Guido visits his wife's parents in their very old, privileged, luxe home, looking at the paintings and sculpture and antiques that decorate the rooms he enters, marvelling at the ice bucket that the Count so often has his favourite drink, Champagne, already open and ready to share -- as Guido notes, this is not a pretension. If the Count's favourite drink were Coke, he'd have that on ice, ready to pour. He just happens to prefer Champagne!
Perhaps the greatest pleasure of reading this series is/will be following the relationship between Guido and his wife, who has willingly abandoned the wealthier lifestyle of her parents to share a much more modest one with Guido. Their quarrels are recognizable ones, as are their concerns over their teen-aged children, and their enjoyment of, and pride in those children as well. And always, Paola's wonderful meals, lovingly described . . .
I'm going to try and stall a bit before I gobble up the 3rd book in the series -- I haven't even looked up what it is yet. We'll see how long I resist. Meanwhile, do you know these books? Like/love them? Or? And do you have other favourite books/mysteries about or set in Italy? (I also highly recommend Tim Parks' Italian Ways, a memoir by an ex-pat who's lived there for decades.)
Two posts in a week? I'd better be careful, setting expectations I may not live up to. . . Thanks for reading!