Falling in Love

Falling in Love

by Donna Leon
Mystery
Atlantic Monthly Press
Hardcover, 256 pages
$26.00

Twenty-five years and twenty-four books ago, Donna Leon - a New Englander of Irish descent who spent over 25 years living in Venice, Italy - stumbled virtually by accident into her enormously successful and prolific career of crime writing. A casual conversation between friends sparked an idea to eliminate a much-despised conductor in the grand La Fenice opera house in Venice. Leon, by way of a joke and with no background whatsoever in fiction writing, offered to create a plausible scenario for this murder, and the wildly popular Brunetti series was born. Donna Leon is an unapologetic elitist. As one reviewer noted “the audience she aims at (as she cheerfully admits) is educated, civilized, well-read, morally alert, and intellectually curious.” Nevertheless her characters are warm, accessible, full of life and very engaging. The social and political issues she tackles are real human problems that face not just Venice, but many urban areas worldwide. Her writing style is open and inviting. Sometimes the mystery is front and center; often it’s the totality of the story and her characters that is engrossing even if the mystery is easy to solve. Her latest novel, Falling in Love, tends toward the latter. It brings us back to La Fenice and the diva featured in Leon’s first book, this time as a victim of a stalker, rather than a suspect. The mystery is fairly easy to unravel but her characters shine with their usual radiance and her chronicle of obsessive love and its torturous consequences is absorbing.