Cover Image: Trace Elements

Trace Elements

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Member Reviews

Another Brunetti masterclass  

I have read most of Donna Leon’s books featuring Guido Brunetti and have enjoyed them all. I feel that I have come to know Guido and his family not only at home but also in his work. I have been to Venice but Ms Leon brings this beautiful city to life, warts and all, in a way no tourist guide ever does. I find that quite often the plot is almost incidental, I just wallow in the easy writing style and really enjoy hearing about Brunetti’s life, family and work. 

However, a book review should include some details of the plot and, this time, Bruno is drawn into the world of water sanitation, which, presumably, is a very important job in Venice. Vittorio Fadetto works for a company called Spatutto Acqua sampling his area of Venice’s waterways for chemicals that could be harmful to the population. However, at the start of the book he has been killed in an apparent motorcycle accident where he went off the road. His wife, Benedetta Tosa, is in an end of life hospice dying of cancer and asks for the police to come and see her. Bruno and his workmate, Claudia Griffoni, go to the hospital where Benedetta tells them that her husband’s death was not an accident but was due to his accepting ‘bad money’. 

Bruno investigates in his usual thorough way finding out exactly how the whole system of water sanitation works and with the assistance of one of my favourite characters throughout the series of books, Signora Elletra Zorzi, as always, solves the mystery. 

The main reason that I have only given this book 4 stars is that I did not find the actual plot particularly interesting and the ending was quite unsatisfactory. It was still a joy to read this book but I do wonder whether Ms Leon is running out of good mysteries for Bruno to solve. 


Elite Reviewing Group received a copy of the book to review
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Another book in the brunetti series and a great read as usual.I have read several books in the series and enjoyed all.
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Even though this novel was written before the current crisis, it seems to presage the malaise that is gripping the planet. The plot concerns an environmental issue and Leon takes a more serious tack in unspooling this tale. Moreover, there is only one other subplot instead of several, and there is decidedly less in the way of gastronomy and good humor. Instead, there is a lot of complaining about the summer's infernal heat and the tourists. Yet the reader is rewarded with a serious treatment of the main theme which culminates in a final reckoning that is part Shakespeare and part Sherlock. Brunetti is faced with a difficult choice in resolving issues of moral and criminal turpitude and, truth be told, I was not entirely satisfied with his course of action. Maybe it was the heat.
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I've read all of the Inspector Brunetti books up to this one, and I thoroughly enjoy them.  I've become very attached to the characters, as they've developed and grown through the series.  In this book, we're starting to know more about Claudia Griffoni, a character who interests me very much.

Once again, Brunetti is involved in a crime involving corruption, in which the wrongdoers easily justify their actions - a theme that runs through the series.  Especially in the later books in the series, we're generally looking at more complicated issues than a straightforward theft or murder - issues in which it simply may not be possible to actually fix guilt in a court of law.  And, we're seeing more and more of his mixed feelings about his job, considering this dilemma.  In this one, his emotional reactions, particularly to a death (from natural causes) that occurs in his presence, are exacerbated by the oppressive heat of Venice.  Leon describes that heat so well that I almost turned down the thermostat in my house (despite the fact that it was in the 40s here while I was reading it!)

This is another solid entry in the Brunetti series.  There is a lot more science than I'm used to, but I didn't find it necessary to understand the science in order to understand the book!  It is also another book in which she is concerned with the environmental damage being done to Venice and its waters. 

This one is certainly a good read!
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This is the first Donna Leon and Commissario Guido Brunetti novel I have read for yaers and it was like welcoming home an old friend.

I loved the sense of time and place and the writing was exquisite. The plot was credible and exciting and the characterisations perfect.

I felt like I was in Venice and I now have a massive backlist to catch up with.
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Yet another great Brunetti from Leon, although I’m not sure I will want to eat seafood for a while! As always, we get insights into Brunetti’s reading material and whatever cuisine he is enjoying (although alas a bit less about cooking than usual!). 

This is a fast paced story full of twists and turns and the reader oscillates between anger and sadness for much of the time. Leon’s characters whether new or familiar are three dimensional and we get to enjoy meeting up again with Brunetti’s work colleagues - those whom he admires and those he actively dislikes!
Leon transports us to Venice and gives wonderful insights into politics, ecology and human nature. 
 I would wholeheartedly recommend her books to any reader and envy those who are only starting their Brunetti journey!
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Another masterful book in the Brunetti series.  The Commissario is called to a woman's deathbed because she says she has important information.  It has to do with her husband who died in a mysterious motorcycle accident a few weeks before.  But, she dies before much information can be shared, so he sets out to figure out the puzzle.  I love these books because of their setting in the unique city of Venice, as well as the rich characters and bits of humor.  You won't want to put it down until you learn all the secrets!
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Trace Elements is the 29th book in Donna Leon's Brunetti series. 
Not for the first time there is a recurring theme about the environment and water pollution in this book, not surprisingly for a series set in Venice where pollution plays such a big role.
Like all the Brunetti books I've read so far (which is almost half of them I guess) I found this one well written and documented. What I like about the series that the crimes that are committed are never black and white. Furthermore you never know if the culprits will get away with their crimes  or not, and even if they get caught chances are that in the long run their case gets stuck somewhere in the legal system or the sentence gets reversed after a very long period. Not unlike in the real Italian Justice system I must add. 

I noticed that in this episode Brunetti's children had hardly no part at all and even his wife figured only once or twice and than very shortly. Nevertheless I found this as good a read as the other episodes I've read  and I certainly recommend this book. A big four stars.

My thanks go to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Donna Leon is a master storyteller. Rich with detail, this book is very atmospheric. With a clever title.  Read and understand!
Many thanks to Grove Atlantic and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Commissario Guido Brunetti is suffering through a stifling hot July in Venice Italy when he finds himself investigating the suspicious death of a water distribution system worker.  The man died in a . motorcycle crash that could be a freak accident, a suicide or a deliberate killing.  The situation is made more tragic by the subsequent death of the man's wife, from terminal cancer, leaving their two teenage daughters behind as orphans. Brunetti's task is to determine what happened.

Brunetti, ably assisted by his talented colleagues Commissario Claudia Griffoni and Ispettore Vianello, investigates the man's last several days before his death.  He draws upon the talents of Signorina Ellettra, nominally his superior's secretary,  who has developed into a world class computer hacker. The signorina is able to produce the information Brunetti  needs to fill in the gaps left from his interviews with the principal players in the story.   Ultimately, Brunetti faces a choice between capturing a killer or arresting a corrupt scientist.  Once made, this choice brings the story to an abrupt and thought-provoking conclusion.  The question may linger in a reader's mind about what choice would be made if they were in Brunetti's shoes.

The story-telling is classic Brunetti.   Drawing on his high level of native intelligence and his Venetian life experience he guides the investigation through the facade put up by various players.  He knows when to speak the local dialect, Veneziano, instead of Italian. More important, he knows to whom to speak.   The casual ease of his manoeuvres carries the story along smoothly.  Venice with all its charms and faults stands squarely in the background providing plenty of interesting atmosphere.  Brunetti discusses and comments upon such serious subjects as Venice's air quality and the influx of Chinese tourists with wry humour, without dismissing their importance.  A curious side story about Rom pickpockets is left unresolved, despite the apparent involvement of Brunetti's nemesis, Lieutenant Scarpa. More to come?

This is an enjoyable story worthy of being at the top of anyone's "to be read" list. The plot is not a complex one but is sufficiently interesting to entertain readers.  It's the latest addition to a long running series which naturally has an extensive backstory. Despite that it can be read as a standalone, or as an introduction to other books in the series. 

My thanks to Grove Atlantic and Netgalley for providing an advance reading copy of the book.  The comments about it are my own. I appreciate the opportunity to review the book.
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Trace Elements is the 29th (!!!) Guido Brunetti mystery by Donna Leon. Released 10th March 2020 by Grove Atlantic on their Atlantic Monthly Press imprint, it's 320 pages and available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook formats.

For fans of the series, the author, her style, the characters, and the settings need no introduction. For readers unfamiliar with the author who are looking for a solid series (and I mean -the entire series- there's not a clunker in the lot), this could definitely be the answer. This is a gently paced book with perfectly delineated characters who are well drawn and acting true to nature. They breathe and feel and Ms. Leon manages to imbue them with 3 dimensions without ever once abusing the reader's trust. The dialogue is well rendered and believable. There is humor, pathos, humanity, and decency, if not always justice in the strictest sense. Although it's one of a series (and I heartily recommend reading them all), it works perfectly well as a standalone.

The author doesn't shy away from shining a light on the seedier side of the government infrastructure along with the 'realpolitik' involved in the interoffice shuffling of inconvenient media problems as well as juggling privacy and data protection laws to mostly stay on the right side the law while still managing to solve crimes. Commisario Brunetti and his colleagues and family are so well written that it's always a delight to catch up and 'visit' them. I like it very much that Brunetti has a healthy family life and that he's a reader himself. There are small literary asides peppered throughout the book which show his humanity and intelligence and in a way, his love and appreciation for his wife, who is a professor of literature.

Leon is a capable and gifted storyteller, writing in top form and providing pure delightful high quality entertainment. This is a warm and well written mystery procedural. Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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This was the last in a long line of Brunetti novels from Donna Leon - and the very first that I have read although I have two in the series sitting on my bookshelf, as yet unread.

I was drawn to this police procedural as it was set in Italy, particularly Venice, for which I have some affinity for.  There are two cases for Brunetti to deal with - quite apart from the oppressive heat and hoards of tourists - the issue of two pick-pocketing Roma girls, and a rather strange deathbed confession that involves a death and "bad money".

Whilst wonderfully descriptive, the pace was rather slow moving - something to do with the heat perhaps - though does finally pick up as the pieces are moved into place.

Not having read any in the series did not detract from my reading, though for the sake of character development and continuity, I would suggest following this series from the beginning. As I have a couple already, I may invest in this series myself.
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Another good book in the  Comissario Guido Brunetti series. Although its bad deeds that bring the reader back to Venice, readers are rewarded not only in good storytelling but as armchair tourists. Like Brunetti I, too, wonder why people visit Venice in August.  A woman’s dying words “Bad money” told to Brunetti and Griffoni in a Venice hospice, leads them beyond the city in the search for the meaning.  What disappointed me in this book was the lack of interaction within Brunetti’s family. In the past, I have always enjoyed this look at a Venice family. But like in other books, Leon makes the point that Venice is overcome with tourists.
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Shame on me but it was about 10 years ago that financial misery stopped me from keeping up my collection of ‘Brunetti novels’ as I called them. This was a more than a pleasant reunion. He’s older and his children are almost grown up now but they still live at home. Signorina Elettra, one of my favourite characters is also still on her post as vice-questore Patta’s secretary. And is there some romance lurking in the shadows for her? Patta’s petty politics interfere once again with the proper police work. This time he wants 2 underage Roma pickpocket girls (who had the audacity to target the mayor’s wife) of the streets for the time he’s buying an apartment and until a planned positive article is placed in the press. Eventually, an elegant but funny solution is found for the problem.
What I particularly like in Leon’s books are all the quaint details about Venice’s city-life and local habits as well as some of the specific problems of a tourist industry that’s for a large part dependent on the Chinese. How a police siren on the boats frightens them and most of them can’t swim, so they make only use of them in dire need. Or how the import of all the necessities to cater to the millions of tourists and the tourist taxi’s themselves, cause traffic jams on the canals. What I find missing in this book are the mouthwatering descriptions of all the nice food that’s usually consumed in the Brunetti household.
The main case investigated in this book is about a woman who on her deathbed in a hospice, wants to speak to the police. She tells Brunetti and Griffoni that her husband got ‘bad’ money from somewhere and that ‘they’ murdered him. A promise made to the dying woman weighs heavy on Brunetti. The first thing they discover is that the husband died 2 weeks earlier in a motorcycle accident and that she herself was recently moved to the hospice from an expensive private hospital, presumably because she could no longer afford to pay their fees. 
Apart from the usual political shenanigans and corruption, there are three main topics in this feature: water, summer heat and crowds.
I thank Netgalley and Atlantic Monthly Press for this ARC, all opinions in this review are my own.
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Donna Leon has Guido Brunetti  follow Trace Elements to tainted water, murder and corruption. Brunetti is following up on the puzzling death bed testimony of a terminally ill woman whose husband was run down and die in suspicious circumstances.  The weather is hot, petty crime and corruption are everywhere.  Guido still soldiers on.  Well plotted against the background of Venice as a character.  Up to Donna Leon's best. See if you can figure it out.
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Trace Elements by Donna Leon is the thirtieth book in the Guido Brunetti mystery series. This is essentially a police procedural that takes place in Italy. This is the first in the series for me so I am automatically at a disadvantage but I had tremendous difficulty engaging with the characters or the mystery. Maybe it is my lack of history or may be something else, but based on this experience I will not be reading another in this series. 

I received a free ARC of Trace Elements from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions expressed herein are solely my own. #netgalley  #traceelements
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Brunetti walks the streets of Venice, rides through its canals, and eats in its bars and cafés in Donna Leon’s 29th Guido Brunetti mystery.  Like Brunetti, I love food, and its a pleasure to sit down to dine with his family, Paola, Chiara and Raffi.  Signorina Electra and the rest of his colleagues provide a wonderful supporting cast as Brunetti takes on the social, environmental, and climate problems of modern Venice.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Of course she'll never match the genius of her first Commissaro Brunetti novel, Death at La Fenice, but the most recent books have been pretty good. The low point, I think, was Earthly Remains, and I almost abandoned the series. Happily I didn't, and Trace Elements was well worth the read. It reprises one of Ms Leon's obsessions, that corrupt Italian businessmen pollute the waterways into order to save a euro or two. Not to fear! Guide Brunetti is on the case, and his climate-alarmist daughter will ensure that he doesn't use any plastic water bottles while he's solving the mystery. And one of the great things about Leon's books is the charm of the Brunetti family as they care for one another and do their best to straighten out the head of the household. Brunetti's pompous boss is likewise playing to type, and so is his secretary, the techno-genius Signorina Elletra. Now that Covid-19 makes it unwise to visit northern Italy, Leon's wonderful take on Venice is a good consolation.
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What a ride - so far there are 29 books in the wonderful Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon. I have read every single one of them starting the first book the day it was published back in 1992. While there are some I loved, some I liked a bit less, there hasn't been one that I didn't come away with the feeling of time well spent with Guido and his beloved Venice. He was born and raised in Venice and loves her passionately. Venice is more than the setting for the series, she is a living, breathing character and, as the series has progressed we have seen her become just as much a victim of human beings as the murder victim that presents a case for Guido.
In this entry there are both kinds of victim - the husband of the dying woman, a chemist who was killed in a motorcycle accident and the manmade harm to Venice and to our planet at large. Guido takes it all on while dealing with the extreme heat. The tourists are like locusts, clogging every calle and plaza making daily life for the residents horrible. Between the heat, the tourists and the normal walking needed to travel Venice, the pace is very slow. It is mirrored in the puzzles Guido and his partner, Griffoni deal with. Having spent time in Venice in the Summer, this was very familiar.
I won't say any more about the mystery for fear of spoilers. I will say that it can be read as a stand alone. Donna Leon has a way with words with so many I wanted to highlight many times per chapter. I will also stress that the pace is slow, as it needs to be. Find a comfy spot and settle down for a visit with Guido, his friends and family and the magnificent city that is Venice. It is reading time well spent.
My thanks to the publisher Atlantic Monthly Press and to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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A quandary for Brunetti!

Two seemingly simple cases that had no connection. A couple of Roma girls have pick pocketed the wife of a powerful person who wants them out of Venice in case further enquiries open up something they don't want exposed. 
A dying woman who has something to confess to the police.
As investigations unfold, both cases are a minefield of complexities for Commissari Guido Brunetti and Claudia Griffoni. As always they are ably assisted  by the highly efficient Signorina Elettra, whose computer skills allow them into places that  they normally couldn't access.
One case involves a question of the health of the planet. Both cases speak to what the powerful are able to get away with. Brunetti is faced with conflicting choices.
As Brunetti summarizes his reflections and the questions the situation demands we are reminded of his love of mythologies of the past,
"His thoughts turned to the Eumenides and the characters’ desperate search for an understanding of justice based on something other than vengeance."
"Brunetti was both accuser and accused. He had to decide which crime to punish, which to ignore, and choose the greater criminal, or the better odds."
As always a complex, yet rewarding read. Leon's underlying themes of the environment, politics, graft and corruption, bubble away, rising to the surface throughout. 
It took me sometime to understand the title. I was as confused as Brunetti--until we both weren't!

A Grove Atlantic ARC via NetGalley
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