Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

The last Leon I read was in 2010 and I really thought I’d call it a day. It was Through a Glass, Darkly and was irritatingly thin on plot, but big on fillers – politics/environment. A couple of weeks ago, however, I spotted this for a couple of francs at a church sale and couldn’t resist. Had things changed?

Well, yes and no. I can’t even say this one’s thin on plot. It has virtually no plot whatsoever. But it seems much less didactic than Through… It’s a melancholy meander through what I think of as the outback of Venice, the islands and their lagoons, in the oppressive heat of summer. The environmental issues are the more effectively presented by being done in a gentler way.

If you are looking for a whodunnit or a police procedural that has your heart beat pumping away, this isn’t it. But in the most quiet of ways, I did find this hard to put down. If you want an authentic slice of Venice with an environmental subplot that is, alas, entirely believable. Indeed, I wonder if the controversy over the poisoning of workers and lagoons which resulted in a not guilty verdict for the Porto Marghera plant, was the inspiration.

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