“…The next morning was as dismal as his mood. A thick fog had appeared during the night, seeping up from the waters on which the city was built, not drifting in from the sea. When he stepped out of his front door, cold, misty tendrils wrapped themselves around his face, slipped beneath his collar. He could see clearly for only a few metres, and then vision grew cloudy; buildings slipped into and out of sight, as though they, and not the fog, shifted and moved.
Phantoms, clothed in a nimbus of shimmering grey, passed him on the street, floating by as though disembodied. If he turned to follow them with his eyes, he saw them disappear, swallowed up by the dense film that filled the narrow streets and lay upon the waters like a curse. Instinct and long experience told him there would be no boat service on the Grand Canal; the fog was far too thick for that. He walked blindly, telling his feet to lead, allowing decades of familiarity with bridges, streets, and turns to take him over to the Zattere and the landing where both the number 8 and the number 5 stopped on their way to the Giudecca.
Service was limited, and the boats, divorced from any idea of a schedule, appeared randomly out of clouds of fog, radar screens spinning. He waited fifteen minutes before a number 5 loomed up, then slammed heavily into the dock, rocking it and causing a few of the people waiting there to lose their balance and fall into one another. Only the radar saw the crossing; the humans huddled down in the cabin, blind as moles in sand.
When he got off the boat, Brunetti had no choice but to walk forward until he could almost touch the front of the buildings along the waterfront. Keeping them an arm’s length away, he walked towards where he remembered the archway to be. When he got to an opening in the line of facades, he turned into it, not really certain that this was Corte Mosca. He could not read the name, though it was painted on the wall only a foot above his head.
The humidity had worsened the smell of cat; the cold sharpened it. The dead plants in the courtyard now lay under a blanket of fog. He knocked at the door, knocked again more loudly, and heard her call out from the other side. ‘Who is it?’
Again he listened to the slow, angry rasp of metal on metal as she pulled back the heavy bolts that secured the door. She pulled it towards her. The sharp increase in humidity forced her to give it an upward tug in the middle of its arc to lift it from the uneven floor. Still wearing the overcoat, though it was now buttoned tight, she didn’t bother to ask him what he wanted. She stepped back enough to allow him to enter, then slammed the door behind him. Again she bolted it securely before turning to lead him down the narrow passageway. In the kitchen, he went and sat near the stove, and she stopped to kick the rags back into place beneath the door.
Excerpt from Death at La Fenice, A Commissario Brunetti Mystery, the first in a series of internationally best-selling novels stretching more than two dozen books that can be read in or out of order. American author Donna Leon, now a thirty year resident of Venice, writes lovingly of her Venice, posing a shock crime and ensuing moral dilemma, presenting mysteries not of action but a classic journey through the minds and hearts of her Venetian characters.
Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venice Police is a regular family guy with a regular detective job, an Italian Columbo sans the eccentricities. This first book, Death at La Fenice, came out in 1992. Award winning mystery / crime fiction author Donna Leon’s latest bestseller The Waters of Eternal Youth was released in March, 2016. Sold in over twenty five countries, these books are Venice at its best, both gritty and fanciful, and showcase the city as its own international language. Enjoy them in order or one at a time as the mood strikes.
The excerpt from above is from Death at La Fenice from 1992, and like Venice itself, wears well with age. The few other book cover images are a selection of a few of the others in the series and drop you right into the puddles of Venice. Eathly Remains is the 26th and most recent book of Donna Leon's crime fiction series and just released in April 2017.