Summary and book reviews of Uniform Justice by Donna Leon

Uniform Justice

Guido Brunetti Mystery Series

By Donna Leon

Uniform Justice
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2003,
    259 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2004,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

For over a decade, Donna Leon has topped European bestseller lists and captivated fans throughout the world with her series of mysteries featuring the shrewd, charismatic Commissario Guido Brunetti. Guiding us through contemporary Venice's dark undercurrents of personal politics, corruption, and intrigue, Donna Leon's is "crime writing of the highest order: powerful, relevant and too full of human failings" (The Guardian).

This time, Commissario Brunetti faces an unsettling case that, because he is the father of a young son, hits him especially close to home. The body of a student has been found hanged in Venice's elite, highly cloistered military academy. The young man is the son of a doctor and former politician, a member of Parliament who had an impeccable integrity all too rare in Italian politics. Dr. Moro is clearly devastated by his son's death, but while both he and his apparently estranged wife seem convinced that the boy's death could not have been suicide, neither appears eager to help in the investigation of the mysterious circumstances in which he died. Bolstered by the help the elegant and crafty Signorina Elettra, and the cooking and sympathetic ear of his wife, Paola, Commissario Brunetti sets off on an investigation that gets him caught up in the strange and stormy politics of his country's powerful elite.

When Brunetti plunges into Dr. Moro's political career and the circumstances of the doctor's estrangement from his wife, he discovers unsettling details. How to explain the mysterious hunting accident in which Signora Moro was involved, and the fact that her marriage crumbled so soon after? As he investigates, Brunetti is faced with a wall of silence, because the military, who protects its own, and civilians, even at the cost of their lives, are unwilling to talk. Is this the natural reluctance of Italians to involve themselves with the authorities, or is Brunetti facing something altogether darker?
Uniform Justice, the 12th book about Guido Brunetti, is a riveting, pitch-perfect murder mystery—the work of a truly masterful storyteller. Conjuring contemporary Venice in exquisite and alluring detail, Donna Leon offers what has been widely hailed as the finest installment yet of the Commissario Guido Brunetti series. 

Chapter 1

Thirst woke him. It was not the healthy thirst that follows three sets of tennis or a day spent skiing, thirst that comes slowly: it was the grinding, relentless thirst that comes of the body's desperate attempt to replenish liquids that have been displaced by alcohol. He lay in his bed, suddenly awake, covered with a thin film of sweat, his underwear damp and clinging.

At first he thought he could outwit it, ignore it and fall back into the sodden sleep from which his thirst had prodded him. He turned on his side, mouth open on the pillow, and pulled the covers up over his shoulder. But much as his body craved more rest, he could not force it to ignore his thirst nor the faint nervousness of his stomach. He lay there, inert and utterly deprived of will, and told himself to go back to sleep.

For some minutes he succeeded, but then a church bell somewhere towards the city poked him back to consciousness. The idea of liquid seeped into his mind: a glass of sparkling...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
An Introduction to Uniform Justice

The snaking, unmarked streets of canal-crossed Venice provide the perfect backdrop for intrigue and mystery in Donna Leon's Uniform Justice, a novel in this elegant mystery series featuring the affable Commissario Guido Brunetti.

Guido Brunetti is a born-and-bred middle-class Venetian who investigates murder and high crime among the patrician families of old Venice. From his headquarters at the Questura, Brunetti pieces together his cases with the help of a few clever colleagues: the beautiful secretary and researcher Signorina Elettra, the loyal Vianello, the persistent Pucetti, and the often duplicitous and self-aggrandizing Vice-Questore Patta. But the Commissario is not just another heartless, ...
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Media Reviews
The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio

Despite the serious issues they raise, Leon's books shimmer in the grace of their setting and are warmed by the charm of their characters.

The Chicago Tribune - Dick Adler

Leon is probably the best mystery writer you've never heard of—unless you've picked up her best-selling books at foreign airports or bought copies of the British editions on the internet. She uses the relatively small and crime-free canvas of Venice for riffs about Italian life, sexual styles and—best of all—the kind of ingrown business and political corruption that seems to lurk just below the surface.

The Baltimore Sun - Jodi Jaffe

There's atmosphere aplenty in Uniform Justice . . . Brunetti is a compelling character, a good man trying to stay on the honest path in a devious and twisted world.

The Portland Oregonian - Beverly Close

Set in a cold and gray Venice, this is a must-read for Leon's fans.

The Washington Post - Patrick Anderson

In all this, Leon's bittersweet novel seems to reflect a love-hate passion for her adopted land. Presumably Leon wouldn't live in Italy unless she loved it. But you can love a country, and not only Italy, without being blind to its failures or embracing the knaves and fools who hold power. Uniform Justice is a neat balancing act. Its silken prose and considerable charm almost conceal its underlying anger; it is an unlovely story set in the loveliest of cities.

The Rocky Mountain News - Peter Mergendahl

The author has written a pitch-perfect tale where all the characters are three-dimensional, breathing entities, and the lives they live, while by turns sweet and horrific, are always believable. Let Leon be your travel agent and tour guide to Venice. It's an unforgettable trip.

Sunderland Echo - Paul Larkin

Donna Leon has gathered a fair following with her crime novels set in Venice. A new Leon is always a treat and this is no exception . . . It's a challenging case for Brunetti, and an enjoyable read for you.

Publisher's Weekly

Starred review. Superb. . . . An outstanding book, deserving of the widest audience possible, a chance for American readers to again experience a master practitioner's art.

PW Daily

Outstanding. . . . This is not the Venice of Thomas Mann or Henry James; Leon's city is winter-cold and gray, with corruption rather than gilt glinting through the fog, and a culture in the grip of a Kafkaesque bureaucracy that runs on secrets and bribes. The plot flows along like the Adriatic tide through a narrow canal—swift, none-too-clean and inevitable.

Booklist - Bill Ott

Starred review. American readers, having endured seven long years without a new Guido Brunetti novel, can now celebrate the return of Leon's world-weary Venetian commissario. . . . It's high time this series earns the accolades in the U.S. it has been receiving in Europe for years.

Literary Review

Deeply sympathetic portrait of a truth-seeker at war with monied time-servers, but Brunetti's reflections giving point and poignancy to the conflict.

The Good Book Guide - Libby Purves

There is the joy of contemplating Venice the veiled and ancient heroine, with a sad haunted beauty slipping away year by year. Read it in the dusk, with a grappa.

Library Journal

Currently, Leon's other marvelous titles are only available in expensive British paperbacks, but one hopes that Atlantic Monthly and Penguin, which is issuing a mass-market edition of A Noble Radiance, will continue to reintroduce this wonderful writer to American readers. Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

A powerful indictment of an Italian society in which scandal had the same shelf life as fresh fish by the third day, both were worthless; one because it had begun to stink, the other because it no longer did.

Sunday Telegraph (UK) - Susanna Yager

Ms. Leon once again captures the spirit of the city and the conflict between ordinary citizens and those with power and influence.

The Evening Standard (UK) - T.J. Binyon

[Brunetti] long ago joined the ranks of the classic fictional detectives.

Manchester Evening News(UK)

Classic, classy detective fiction, with its unique Venetian setting and a humane and down-to-earth protagonist.

The Guardian (UK)

Wonderfully familiar characters, a powerful sense of place and expert plotting makes this 12th appearance of the down-to-earth Brunetti—now fully recovered from his earlier wounds in Mafia territory—a page-turner with real psychological depth and a disturbing, quiet power.

Sunday Times (UK) Margaret Walters

[Uniform Justice has] a stinging and effective surprise at the end . . . It is complex and thought-provoking and lingers in the mind.

Spain Magazine

The new Brunetti novel is darker and more moving than ever before and displays Leon at her best.

Spain Magazine

The new Brunetti novel is darker and more moving than ever before and displays Leon at her best.

Reader Reviews
This author is new to me. I just read about her in your latest newsletter & intend to try her series. I went on a search discover to the first book in the series and came across this website. It's not as personal as most authors' own websites, but it...   Read More

Bill Hobbs

Donna Leon is simply among the best and her 13th Commissario Guido Brunetti novel is excellent. Her series is always set in Venice and this American-born expatriot seems to capture the essence of The Pearl of the Adriatic with her mesmerizing police...   Read More

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