A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon: A review

These Donna Leon books featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venice police have become some of my favorite guilty reading pleasures over the past year. Time to squeeze in one more before the year ends!

A Noble Radiance is the seventh in the series and once again it highlights the corruption and intrigue which seem to be hallmarks of public life in Italy - at least in public life as told by Donna Leon.

The plot begins with the discovery of a body, not an unusual event in a murder mystery. In this case, the body is that of a young man, long dead and mostly decomposed. The body is discovered when an abandoned and derelict farm in a village near Venice is purchased by a German doctor from Munich as a retirement home. He starts the process of renovating and upgrading the house and the land around it. As one of the fields is being plowed, the plow uncovers the remains which had been in a shallow grave. The case is assigned to Brunetti.

Along with the body, a ring is discovered. The ring bears the crest of the Lorenzoni family. As it happens, two years earlier, the twenty-year-old son of that family, Roberto, had been kidnapped. A ransom was demanded but his father was not able to access the money to pay it, thus it was never paid. The family never had a second request from the supposed kidnappers and they've never heard from or seen their son again. His body was never found. The experience has completely destroyed the boy's grieving mother.

Soon the authorities are able to confirm that the body that was found is Roberto's and the old kidnapping case that was never solved is reopened as a murder case.

As Guido investigates, he senses that there is something "off" about the family relationships, particularly the father and a nephew who is now the family heir. He begins to suspect that Roberto's disappearance may not have been a clearcut kidnapping and that the family may be involved.

As the Commissario investigates, he goes home each day to his own family of a wife and two teenage children and we see the contrast between this loving unit and the Lorenzoni family. Brunetti's relationships with his family and with the co-workers whom he trusts, like Signorina Elletra, sustain him and make it possible for this clever, empathetic, and philosophical detective to maintain his integrity in a corrupt system. Time spent with him always leaves the reader with the sense that continuing to fight the good fight is a worthy goal in and of itself.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


  1. I am now reading number 17 of this series -- and I don't feel at all guilty! Very enjoyable. P. x

    1. I am very glad to have finally "discovered" this series. The books are indeed a pleasure to read.

  2. It sounds like the author has redeemed herself from the last one you read!

    1. This one was definitely a step up from Quietly in Their Sleep.

  3. I'm glad this is another great entry in Brunetti's saga. Good decision to end the year on a high note with this entertaining read.

    1. So Donna Leon ends the year on a high note with me.


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