Many of us look forward to Donna Leon’s next Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery (this is number twenty-six). With the romantic city and waters of Venice as a backdrop, Leon artfully allows the reader to be immersed into the pages to the point of wondering if you can hear sounds of the laguna waters outside your own living room as you read. In Earthly Remains, the reader is treated not only to city life in Venice but is also able to join Brunetti as he heads off to Sant’Erasmo, one of the more remote islands in the laguna.
The book opens with an incident at the Questura where Brunetti acts rashly to protect the career of one of his officers with the result of Brunetti being ordered by his doctor to take a leave of absence from work. Brunetti’s wife Paola makes arrangements for a relaxing and solitary getaway to one of her wealthy relative’s villa, complete with a resident caretaker and cook. As it turns out the caretaker, David Casati, is an old and dear friend of Brunetti’s father. Soon the two men are spending days out on the laguna together sharing their love of being on the water by rowing together for long hours each day on Casati’s boat. These quiet days offer a unique chance for Brunetti to explore the laguna and to learn from his new friend many joys of nature, beauty and also some troubling secrets of this “tranquil” setting.
One evening, a sudden and severe storm engulfs the island. The next morning Casati’s daughter arrives at the villa requesting Brunetti’s help in locating her father who she fears may have been caught out on the laguna in the storm. The mysterious disappearance is only the beginning and from this point onward, Brunetti relentlessly pursues the truth and uncovers the secrets of his new friend’s complicated past with the help of two of his favorite colleagues, inspector Vianello and the well-connected Signorina Elettra.