Friends in High Places by Donna Leon: A review

Donna Leon has a new book in her Guido Brunetti series. It is the 28th book in the series. It opened on The New York Times best sellers list. 

It sounds interesting and I would really like to read it, but I am committed to reading the books of the series in order and I'm only up to number nine. At the rate I am going, it will be years before I can legitimately read number twenty-eight.

On the bright side, that means that I have a lot of entertaining reading ahead of me. My pleasure in reading this series has increased with just about every book I have read. That trend continued with Friends in High Places, published in 1999.

This book once again features the pervasive corruption that is so much a part of Venetian society, at least in Leon's fictional Venice. Commissario Brunetti receives a visit from an official from the Officio Castato, the registrar of buildings in Venice. He is there to determine if there was a permit for the construction of Brunetti's apartment on the top floor of a historical building. 

After the visit and Brunetti's inability to provide any documentation, nothing further is heard from the office for months and Guido and his wife Paola consider what levers of influence they might be able to pull to stave off hostile action by the bureaucracy. Will they have to bring in the big guns of Paola's father, the very wealthy and well-connected Count? Thus we see the irony that even the upright and very honorable Commissario is willing to employ extralegal means to protect his family and home. It's the Venetian way.  

Then one day, Brunetti receives a phone call from the Officio Castato official at his office, but the call is not in regard to his apartment. Instead, the official, Rossi, wants to discuss with him something that he has discovered, something that evidently involves illegality. The phone call is cut short and Rossi is supposed to call Brunetti back but he never does. Then Brunetti learns that Rossi has been found dead after apparently having accidentally fallen from some scaffolding outside a building. 

Brunetti has questions about the "accident" because he knows that Rossi was deathly afraid of heights and he doesn't believe that he would ever have willingly gone onto the scaffolding. He determines to investigate further and in so doing he opens the lid on an unsavory brew of official corruption, drug dealing, unprincipled money lenders, and petty thuggery. 

In seeking a resolution, Brunetti once again has the assistance of the indispensable Signorina Elletra, a wizard with the internet back when the internet was still in its infancy and when Brunetti himself was still learning how email worked. And once again we get to visit with the Brunetti family as they sit down each day to one of their simple but delicious meals, all described in loving detail. Good stuff! A fun read.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars   


  1. I feel the same way about some of the series I am reading. Glad to hear Donna Leon is still as popular as ever. What era are these books set in? It must be 20th century if the internet is coming in. But you are on book nine, so when was it when the series started?

    1. The first book was published in 1992 and this one in 1999. The time frame of the novels is (so far) contemporaneous with the time of publication.

  2. I like Guido Brunetti. You'd be surprised to learn that the "Venetian way" is the way in other countries around the world. :-)

    1. Actually, I wouldn't be at all surprised. It's hardly unheard of in this country as well.


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