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Fatal Remedies    by Donna Leon order for
Fatal Remedies
by Donna Leon
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Donna Leon has an excellent track-record for writing entertaining mysteries, and Fatal Remedies, her latest Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery - with nine other titles ahead of it - will certainly please Leon's many faithful readers.

Leon sets the hook firmly and deeply into readers with the startling opening scene. Paola Brunetti - the Venetian police detective's wife - is picked up by police officers when she throws a rock through the window of a travel agency (which presumably books sex tours for men who travel to Thailand and the Philippines in order to engage in sex with very young girls). Paola's apparently criminal conduct, which she insists is not wanton vandalism but a necessary act of moral outrage against a criminal and immoral enterprise, threatens the Brunetti's marital harmony and Guido's career. After all, how can a police officer possibly remain on-the-job when his wife has become a petty criminal - at least that is the perspective of Guido's superiors.

While Paola's action causes a rapidly escalating series of problems and embarrassment for Guido at work, the local news media are further complicating his life by hounding him for comments and reactions. And when he thinks things could not possibly get any worse, they do: Paolo Mitri, the owner of the travel agency (a wealthy businessman who also owns a pharmaceutical company and other business ventures) is murdered, and a note left with the body suggests that his murder is connected to the agency's sordid reputation for sex tours.

Now, in a tenuous connection, Guido's wife may be perceived by some in Venice to have somehow been connected with (or at least the catalyst for) the prominent businessman's murder. Guido Brunetti, appreciating both the irony and the important opportunity in the case, is given the task of finding out who is responsible for Paolo Mitri's murder. As the patient, relentless, and resourceful Guido follows the clues, even he - a man of considerable experience and not one ever accused of being na´ve - is surprised when he learns the truth behind Mitri's business ventures and his murder.

Like Donna Leon's other novels - all of them first-rate mysteries - Fatal Remedies takes on important issues within the context of the police-procedural mystery. Beyond the novel's most obvious issue, for which the wonderful Paola Brunetti becomes the author's proxy assailant - Leon has her characters involved in complicated problems of moral relativism versus human decency and responsibility. Leon's criminals, after all, are more than simply violators of statutory criminal codes, they are also enemies of essential morality and honor. And Commissario Guido Brunetti is more than simply a great police detective: he is something like a complicated (and sometimes flawed) super-hero in the Venetian police department, our steadfast guardian of morality and honor, and I (along with Donna Leon's many other fans) look forward to spending more time with Brunetti in future mysteries.

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