Cover Image: A Refiner’s Fire

A Refiner’s Fire

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Member Reviews

Not her best, but the books in this series are alway good. And I’ always look forward to the next one!

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I always read Donna Leon books, and if I stumble on them somewhere, I read them again. They aren't mysteries although they are about crime. They are about the ways that Venetians interact. This one is full of lovely lines like: [They were] Venetians and thus at home in any boat. Brunetti and Griffoni switch dialects and accents and tones, and play multiple characters within their own. Another quiet masterpiece.

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Venice, Italy, Italian-customs, law-enforcement, politics, murder-investigation, due-diligence, class-consciousness, secrets, lies, family, contemporary, gangs, justice, arms-trafficking, theft, procedural*****

Another wonderful read with Brunetti and the Venice he loves. Never a disappointment but often difficult to condense for review.
I requested and received a free temporary uncorrected proof from Grove Atlantic | Atlantic Monthly Press via NetGalley. Thank you.

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Was so pleased to see another Brunetti book in line for publication - and this one (just like every one before) didn't disappoint. I love to walk the streets and over the canals of Venice with Brunetti and all of his crew.

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For anyone reading the Brunetti series from Donna Leon this is a must read. This really is the very finest book of the series of 33 books. Guido and his workmate Griffoni excel above all other performances in earlier books. They are both essential to the investigations that are featured in this book. They make everything work in a complicated set of crimes. I do not wish to ruin this wonderful book for any others. Just know this is so well written it surpasses all the other 32 books she has given us. Wonderful plot construction and writing!

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While this was a very good book, I did not think that it was one of the better books in this series. I’ve read and loved all of the books by Donna Leon—this was the 33rd featuring Commissario Brunetti—but this one seemed to be lacking a few elements that usually make the stories shine. For one, there was definitely not enough Paola in the book. While Brunetti ate a few meals with her and their kids, she seemed to be more in the background, and her role as someone Brunetti goes to for advice and non-police guidance was diminished. Signorina Elettra was also rather muted; while she did what she always does, perhaps the change in Patta had something to do with that. And, Vianello was away and thus, completely absent. The main storyline was interesting, but less so than the last few books. Longtime fans will be satisfied, but I hope that Paola and Vianello play a larger role in the next book. Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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So one of my delights each year is to read the latest mystery novel by Donna Leon and starring Commissario Guido Brunetti. Brunetti serves the citizens of Venice, Italy while also thinking deeply about the great (and small) issues concerning the human condition. The mysteries are always interesting…though not always dramatic. But Leon’s prose is elegant, the key players always finely drawn, and, as an added bonus, the hero of many of her dramatic tales is Venice herself.
There are hundreds of these reviews that describe the essential plot points of this 33rd installment in the Brunetti series. The reason I gladly give “ A Refiner’sFire” 5 stars is that I love a mystery story that elevates into the realm of classic literature. So thanks to Donna Leon for several more hours of reading joy and for NetGalley for the chance to read A Refiner’s Fire.

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i jumped to read this - my favorite series set in one of my favorite places, Venice - but despite all the usual engaging characters - the detective himself, and Patta, his chief (irritating but reassuringly the same from others in the series - no secty though, who is brilliant!) - but we focus on Griffoni, a southern italian cop working with Brunetti, and so we miss his self-aware sensibility a big, focusing on a long-ago-hero, fallen on unusual work efforts, and 'baby gangs' in Venice - fighting among themselves. Griffoni latches onto one young fellow and realises he needs social support after her friendhship when he is picked up among a gang - his father does not really exist, it emerges. there is a virtuous over-wash to the narrative, that dulled the whole thing down for me - the crimes are social crimes not so much intertwined with creeps. so this has not been my favorite in the series ... i trudged on as far as i could .. i'll leap to the ending soon. so not her best ...

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This is the 33rd and latest in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series. I love the series and have read all 33 books. I’m a huge fan of Donna Leon and cannot say enough good things about the amazing main character she has created in Guido Brunetti who operates in present day Venice solving mysteries and crimes in his upstanding yet empathetic way. So it pains me to say I was disappointed with this book. Yes, I still like the characters, the issues around which the book revolves are relevant and current, and the book is still a decent read. I won’t rehash the book’s synopsis here. My disappointment was probably magnified because the author has done such an amazing job with 32 of the Guido Brunetti books. What was missing for me in this book was how all the pieces didn’t quite hang together well. Maybe if the issues had been delved more deeply into, they would have. At times I felt the book was a bit disjointed and the transitions could have been better. Maybe it’s fair to not be too disappointed and wait for her 34th when hopefully I can be a happier Donna Leon and Guido Brunetti fan! Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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A REFINER'S FIRE is the most recent Comissarrio Guido Brunetti mystery set in Venice.
It's always wonderful to revisit Venice even if she is a bit down at the heels.
Gangs have taken over the nights in parts of Venice and Brunetti is dragged into one of those fights.
Good as always. I'd just like Venice to have a Renaissance.

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This is number thirty three in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series and I have happily read all of them.

Leon is an excellent writer, sharing wit and wisdom and capturing so well the the pulse and rhythm of Venice. Not the Venice that the hoards of day trippers experience, but the real city of the Venetians who reside there. It is a joy to read such a literate writer whose books touch on philosophy, classical literature, political science, history, justice. Her books transcend one genre…they are police procedurals, mysteries, literary fiction.

The cases, while always intriguing, are almost secondary to the wonderful characterizations, musings and observations of life, especially Venetian life, by Brunetti. It is always so nice to visit again with all the familiar actors, flamboyant Signora Elletra, strong and wise Paola, philosophical Guido, comical Patta, capable Griffoni, loyal Foa.

The plot of this installment involving the “baby” (underage) gangs trying to wreak havoc on the islands of the Veneto intersects with Brunetti and Griffoni’s interaction with an acclaimed hero from the suicide attack on the Italian carabinieri headquarters at Nasiriyah during the Iraq War twenty years ago. My only hesitation with this story is that I would have liked to have known what happens next for one of the characters. I don’t want to say any more as I don’t write spoilers, but if you read it, you will know who I mean.

Leon conveys so much what Venice is all about....the politics, the cynicism, the decaying beauty. I feel that Brunetti and his family and associates are old friends. Last time we were in Venice, I passed by the Questore fully expecting to encounter him and stopped at his favorite bar for a coffee. Leon's books make me want to return to La Serenissima.

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Donna Leon never fails to enthrall with Guido and his family and colleagues. A Refiner’s Fire takes us to Venice which has a problem with baby gangs- young adolescents searching for excitement in all the wrong ways. When Griffons befriends Orlando, a member of a baby gang who is arrested, she and Guido get caught up in a tale of bored adolescents, sexual harassment, and questionable wartime heroes. With Guido’s usual thoughtful and sensitive investigation, he and Griffons solve their cases in the most compassionate way they can. While Guido sees the worst of humanity, he responds to the best. He is the type of character that I wish were real, and I love my short, vicarious trips to Venice.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review..

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I was thrilled to get to read the arc of this novel. I discovered Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti series during the Covid lockdown and read all of the series in a luscious binge-read. This series is set in Venice, and does a great job of setting the scene so the reader is in Venice with Guido Brunetti and his wife Paola and all the characters that work with Brunetti policing the tourist-infested city. This novel draws us into the issue of 'baby-gangs', teenagers, mostly boys,, who roam the city wreaking havoc. Brunetti's colleague escorts a boy home following a disturbance interrupted by the police and is drawn into something that might be a bit bigger than just a bunch of misbehaving teenagers. I was a bit concerned when I started this book that Brunetti might be near enough to retirement that this book would feel forced or uncomfortable, but Brunetti seems to be in great form. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

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This is another entertaining entry into the world of Commissario Guido Brunetti, a senior police officer in Venice. The best parts of these books are the descriptions of Venice and Brunetti’s interaction with his family. Most days his wife, a university professor, cooks lunch and dinner for her family and Guido gets to walk home for lunch. One night he is surprised to find no dinner waiting for him as his why reminds him of their plans to out for pizza which she’d told him about that morning. So, even a senior police officer who solves complicated crimes doesn’t always listen to his wife. There is also a series of crimes related to purloined treasures by members of the Italian army during the Iraq war that become intertwined with a series of youth gang violence incidents.

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In this latest installment of the long-running Comissario Guido Brunetti series, Donna Leon once again takes us directly into the rhythms of life in Venice, which we experience from the point of view of Venetians trying to maintain their customs amid the ever-increasing disruptions caused by tourism. These days they are also lamenting the rise of marauding “baby gangs” of teenagers fighting over basically nothing—or just for the social media fame. The sense of place is so strong, and the depictions of daily life so compelling, that it’s fun to be immersed in this world, and wasn’t until halfway through the novel that I even noticed that nothing much was really—you know—happening. A bit more activity takes place in the second half of the book, but the action is still secondary to the atmosphere—even more so than in the others in the series. I’m not sure any of the author’s fans will really mind. It all feels like a pleasant and leisurely prelude, with details of delicious food, banter among colleagues, the behavior of petty bureaucrats, etc., until suddenly the book is somehow over.

Thanks to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for a digital advance review copy.

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Youth gangs are bringing mayhem to Venice, and Guido Brunetti and colleagues are caught up in a fight between rival gangs, an attack on a colleague who is also an antiquities collector, and an explosion in Nasriyah, Iraq, 20 years ago that killed more than a dozen members of Italy's carabinieri and left lasting wounds. Donna Leon ties together all of these disparate storylines - perhaps not perfectly, but in a way that seems real - against the fascinating backdrop of modern-day Venice. Thank you to NetGalley and PenguinRandomHouse for the ARC.

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Another good book in the series. Characters development is good. Interesting plot. I recommend it for an easy read.

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I read this ARC to give an honest review
All thoughts and opinions are mine

I love Donna Leon and this series
Love the pace, character developments and the backdrop of Venice is always a treat

Highly recommend
A wonderful read

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In November 2003, a suicide bomber in Nasiriyah, Iraq explodes a truck outside an allied forces military compound that kills 18 Italian servicemembers. That act represents the largest Italian military disaster since World War II and sends the country into a period of deep mourning. Desperate to find a hero in the tragedy, military and political officials settle on a single man—an officer in the Carabinieri deployed at the base—who appears to have risked his life to save two others. However, that appearance proves to be deceptive, and the man soon fades from the collective memory. Twenty years later, modern day Venice is beset with the damaging and violent conflict between rival groups of under-aged youths—baby gangs, they are called—and when one of the gang members turns out to be the son of the Hero of Nasiriyah, it sets off a chain of events that involves mayhem such as blackmail, various physical assaults, arson, and the destruction of ancient artifacts. In A Refiner’s Fire, we see this story unfold and learn how Commissario Guido Brunetti and his colleagues at the Venice Questura resolve things.

For me, the real pleasure in reading a new Brunetti novel lies less with the details of the mystery at the heart of the story and more with the incredible sense of time and place that the author creates. Indeed, as has been the case in so many of the previous volumes in this series, the city of Venice—with both its incomparable beauty and its many warts— once again becomes the main focus. Leon’s descriptions of the city as it passes through the changing seasons are simply stunning and so evocative that, for readers familiar with La Serenissima, it is easy to follow along in the footsteps of the people as they go about their daily lives. Beyond that, each new book brings us back in touch with what are by now a beloved collection of characters, starting with Brunetti and his wife Paola, as well as Brunetti’s trusted associates Claudia Griffoni, Enzo Bocchese, and Signorina Elettra in this tale.

As to the actual plot of A Refiner’s Fire, I enjoyed the historical basis for the story, which was a more pronounced feature here than in most of the books that have come before it. The author does a nice job of weaving harrowing facts from the past with some creative modern fictional elements to make a compelling narrative in which the myriad pieces fit together quite nicely. My only quibble (if that is even the right word to use) would be that the ending felt a little rushed given the elaborate set up that preceded it and that not all the plotlines seemed to be fully resolved. Also, while I have always appreciated the thoughtful and allusive way in which Leon chooses the titles for these novels, I thought that this one—with its apparent Biblical reference—was particularly obscure and left me wondering until the very end how it tied into the story. Those minor points aside, this was an extremely satisfying reading experience from a talented author who, having now produced 33 volumes in this series, remains at the top of her game.

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A Refiner’s Fire by Donna Leon- Always intriguing and accessible the Guido Brunetti series with its beautiful back drop of Venice is a joy to read. This is book number 31 in the series and still fascinating to read. Gang wars predominate the action along with the usual behind the scenes skullduggery. Thanks to NetGalley for this enjoyable ARC

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