Quietly in Their Sleep by Donna Leon: A review

Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venetian police is approached by a young woman who looks familiar but whom he can't quite place and who wants to tell him about what she fears has been happening at a nursing home where she recently worked. Only after she identifies herself does he realize that she was a nun who once cared for his mother at the nursing home where she is a patient. She had subsequently left that nursing home and worked at another, the one about which she is reporting to him. But then she grew disillusioned with life as a nun and left the Order to take up a secular life. She's no longer dressed in a nun's habit which is why he didn't recognize her.

What the young woman reports to Brunetti is her concern about the deaths of some of her former patients. Their deaths were somewhat unexpected and she believes they may have been helped along. All of the individuals were wealthy and she believes they may have been influenced to make their wills in favor of the nursing home.

Brunetti has nothing to go on except the woman's word but he remembers her as a great favorite of his mother because of her tender care and he decides to look into the situation to see what he can find out. In the midst of his inquiries, the woman who had come to him with the report is run down by a car and left for dead. She is in a coma and unable to tell the police what happened. Brunetti suspects that this was no accident and that it was related to his investigation. He determines to make a more intensive effort to find out what's going on and why someone might want to kill her. 

This sixth entry in the Commissario Brunetti series tells a complicated story of abuses in the Catholic Church that seems as though it could be taken from today's headlines. It touches on the handling of priests who are accused of the sexual abuse of children and the cover-up of those abuses, greed and corruption, and looming over it all the shadowy organization of Opus Dei. The author deals with the somewhat incestuous relationship between the Italian government, the mafia, and the Church and with the resultant corruption which makes the lot of the honest policeman not a happy one. I feel the frustration of Brunetti as he tries to cut through the tangle of obstacles placed in his way to obstruct him from finding the embarrassing - and deadly - truth.

The Commissario and his family, as well as his associates with the police, are, as usual, attractive and sympathetic characters and the plot was an interesting one. I was happy enough with my reading experience here up until near the end and then it just all fell apart. The central mystery of the plot is never resolved; instead, the narrative just peters out into a most unfulfilling conclusion. It seemed as if the author simply lost interest and decided to end it in mid-stream. This certainly colored my opinion of the book and left me unsatisfied.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars 


  1. Too bad for the unsatisfactory ending, or lack of it. Maybe this thread will pick up again in the next installment? I hope that's the case. Like I've said before, I like Guido Brunetti.

    1. I like him, too, so I will be reading number seven at some point in the future.

  2. My goodness, I wonder why the author ended the story that way!

    1. It was truly weird. Disconcerting even. I've no idea what her purpose was unless it was to say that nothing ever changes and there is no justice in Italian society and the Church.


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