Summary and book reviews of Blood From A Stone by Donna Leon

Blood From A Stone

A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery

By Donna Leon

Blood From A Stone
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2005,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2006,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

Donna Leon's international best-selling and award-winning Commissario Guido Brunetti novels have been praised for their ability to place their readers into the thick of contemporary Venetian life. Now Blood from a Stone brings Commissario Brunetti back on the scene: On a cold Venetian night shortly before Christmas, a street vendor is killed in a scuffle in Campo Santo Stefano. The closest witnesses to the event are the American tourists who had been browsing the man's wares—fake designer handbags—before his death. The dead man had been working as a vu cumpra, one of the many African immigrants peddling goods outside normal shop hours and trading without work permits.

Commissario Brunetti's response is that of everybody involved: Why would anyone kill an illegal immigrant? Because these workers have few social connections and little money, infighting seems to be the answer. And yet the killings have all the markings of a professional operation. Once Brunetti begins to investigate this unfamiliar Venetian underworld, he discovers that matters of great value are at stake within the secretive society.

While his wife, Paola, struggles to come to terms with their young daughter's prejudices about the immigrants, Brunetti finds that his own police force shares many of the same biases. Warned by Patta, his superior, to desist from further involvement in the case, Brunetti only becomes more determined to unearth the truth. How far will Brunetti be able to penetrate the murky subculture of Venice's illegal community? And how high does the corruption reach into the upper echelons of Brunetti's own world and the world at large?

By a confirmed master storyteller, Blood from a Stone is a pitch-perfect mystery, an alluring portrait of contemporary Venice, and an elucidating eye into the attitudes of a timeless place in the grip of change.

Chapter One

Two men passed under the wooden arch that led into Campo Santo Stefano, their bodies harlequined by the coloured Christmas lights suspended above them. Brighter light splashed from the stalls of the Christmas market, where vendors and producers from different regions of Italy tempted shoppers with their local specialities: dark-skinned cheeses and packages of paper-thin bread from Sardinia, olives in varying shape and colour from the entire length of the peninsula; oil and cheese from Tuscany; salami of all lengths, compositions, and diameters from Reggio Emilia. Occasionally one of the men behind the counters shouted out a brief hymn to the quality of his wares: 'Signori, taste this cheese and taste heaven'; 'It's late and I want to go to dinner: only nine Euros a kilo until they're gone'; 'Taste this pecorino, signori, best in the world'.

The two men passed the stalls, deaf to the blandishments of the merchants, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What is the picture of Venice that emerges in the book? How is the story driven by the history and geography of the city? Did you feel catapulted into the life of the canals, even into the map of the frontispiece? How does Brunetti's own appreciation of his city seduce the reader? See page 77: "Palazzi swept by on both sides, the drunken promiscuity of their styles competing for his attention."

     
  2. " 'Who'd want to kill a vu cumpra?' Rizzardi asked" (p. 11). What are the attitudes of the citizens of Venice toward these street people? Are they tolerated by official insouciance, a general shrug about illegal immigrants? Brunetti had assumed they functioned under the arm of ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

One of the many things to like about this series is watching Brunetti persist in doing the best and most honest job he can, despite the idiocy and corruption of his bosses. He's an everyman who keeps his perspective and humanity despite being a small cog in the mother of all bureaucracies (aka the Italian government).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Library Journal - Michele Leber

Starred Review. Despite the dispiriting and all-too-plausible ending, the evocative Venetian setting and the warmth and humanity of the Brunetti family add considerable pleasure to this nuanced, intelligent mystery; another winner from the Venice-based Leon. Highly recommended for all mystery collections.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Commissario Guido Brunetti's 14th case (Doctored Evidence, 2004, etc.) may be his best yet.....Leon's most adroit balance of teasing mystery, Brunetti's droll battles with his co-workers and higher-ups, and intimations of something far deeper and darker behind the curtain.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this stunning novel, the 14th to feature the dogged, intuitive Venetian police detective Guido Brunetti Leon combines an engrossing, complex plot with an indictment of the corruption endemic to Italian society.

Booklist - Bill Ott

Starred Review. Crime fiction for those willing to grapple with, rather than escape, the uncertainties of daily life.

The Bookseller

Another of her fabulous Italian mysteries . . . She has her finger on the pulse.

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Beyond the Book

Donna Leon was born in the USA but has lived in Venice for about 25 years. Previously she lived in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, England, Iran and China. She says that the idea for the series came about in the early ’80s when she and a friend were in a dressing room at La Fenice (Venice's principle theatre) chatting with the conductor and his wife, and they began to talk of wanting to murder a certain conductor. Something clicked..."and since we were in a conductor’s dressing room, I thought hmm where, how?..."

She is a professor of English Literature at a university near Venice and also the crime reviewer for the Sunday Times newspaper (UK), and an expert on opera. She admits that the character of Brunetti's wife, Paola, ...

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