Book Review – Trace Elements by Donna Leon

It must have been a very hot, muggy and exhausting summer in Venice…

29th Installment in Guido Brunetti’s adventures Trace Elements by Donna Leon is…


When Dottoressa Donato calls the Questura to report that a dying patient at the hospice Fatebenefratelli wants to speak to the police, Commissario Guido Brunetti and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, waste no time in responding.

“They killed him. It was bad money. I told him no,” Benedetta Toso gasps the words about her recently-deceased husband, Vittorio Fadalto. Even though he is not sure she can hear him Brunetti softly promises he and Griffoni will look into what initially appears to be a private family tragedy. They discover that Fadalto worked in the field collecting samples of contamination for a company that measures the cleanliness of Venice’s water supply and that he had died in a mysterious motorcycle accident. Distracted briefly by Vice Questore Patta’s obsession with youth crime in Venice, Brunetti is bolstered once more by the remarkable research skills of Patta’s secretary, Signora Elettra Zorzi. Piecing together the tangled threads, in time Brunetti comes to realize the perilous meaning in the woman’s accusation and the threat it reveals to the health of the entire region. But justice in this case proves to be ambiguous, as Brunetti is reminded it can be when, seeking solace, he reads Aeschylus’s classic play The Eumenides.

As she has done so often through her memorable characters and storytelling skill, Donna Leon once again engages our sensibilities as to the differences between guilt and responsibility.


As I said at the begininng, it must have been one hell of a summer. The book is exhaustingly slow and sticky. Nothing happens for most of the novel. Nothing.

Reader does get the ususal treat: Venice, Brunetti’s family dynamic, insights into civic works in Venice together with intricacies of police and justice system in Italy. And you get a lot of info on how water supply system works in Italy. Fascinating read. Also, reader gets a bit of nostalgia from Guido and a lot of Italian words.

I can’t read book holding a dictionary. Thus, this peppering of Italian slang or out right Italian words did annoy me a bit (even though I love Italian Language).

But nothing happens. Brunetti and his partner do visit dying woman at hospice. But then go out and about their mundane work of catching thiefs and saving mayor’s reputation.

There is no body. There is no murder. OR is there. You have to read to the very end to get it.

I understand author’s desire to shine the light on many problems in Italians’ life using her own fame and status as popular crime writer. However, I wanted more from Brunetti. I wanted suspense and mystery. May be covered in all these nice titbits, but still mystery and suspence…

I got myself a list of Brunetti’s adventures to read though. I only read first 2 by now and absolutely loved them both. That’s why I jumped at the chance to read Trace Elements for NetGalley.

However, only 3 stars… for atmosphere and setting but absence of anything else…


‘suddenly wanting this conversation never to end, to stand and talk about books with the woman he loved and to know he had the good sense to see this moment as one of the great gifts life had given him’.

they had been together in situations of great physical danger, yet,it was her grace in dealing with people who’d come unthethered in reaction to loss or betrayal that had impressed, and steadied, him most.

3 thoughts on “Book Review – Trace Elements by Donna Leon

    1. OMG. I’d love to watch Brunetti in the flesh. He is amazing. I will look for MHZ streaming. Thank you for suggestion.
      I love Brunetti series, don’t get me wrong. However, I did not particulary fall in love with the 29th installment. Especially, as I was pressed for time to read it for Netgalley I wanted something more ‘law and order’ kind.

      Liked by 2 people

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