The Waters of Eternal Youth
Commissario Brunetti #25
Atlantic Monthly Press
In Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series, the Venetian inspector has been called on to investigate many things, from shocking to petty crimes. But in The Waters of Eternal Youth, the 25th novel in this celebrated series, Brunetti finds himself drawn into a case that may not be a case at all.
Fifteen years ago, a teenage girl fell into a canal late at night. Unable to swim, she went under and started to drown, only surviving thanks to a nearby man, an alcoholic, who heard her splashes and pulled her out, though not before she suffered irreparable brain damage that left her in a state of permanent childhood, unable to learn or mature. The drunk man claimed he saw her thrown into the canal by another man, but the following day he couldn’t remember a thing.
Now, at a fundraising dinner for a Venetian charity, a wealthy and aristocratic patroness—the girl’s grandmother—asks Brunetti if he will investigate. Brunetti’s not sure what to do. If a crime was committed, it would surely have passed the statute of limitations. But out of a mixture of curiosity, pity, and a willingness to fulfill the wishes of a guilt-wracked older woman, who happens to be his mother-in-law’s best friend, he agrees.
Brunetti soon finds himself unable to let the case rest, if indeed there is a case. Awash in the rhythms and concerns of contemporary Venetian life, from historical preservation, to housing, to new waves of African migrants, and the haunting story of a woman trapped in a damaged perpetual childhood, The Waters of Eternal Youth is another wonderful addition to this series.
This is an author whose works I have been wanting to sample for a while as I have read/heard so many good things about this body of work. I was not disappointed.
It did however take me a little time to get into the relaxed rhythm of this read – maybe this is because the author takes time to let you get to know the characters and their setting and the emphasis is on these elements in the book and not on crash and burn, gore and blood. It did not however make any difference that I had not read any of the other books in this series – I was completely comfortable walking round with Commissario Guido Brunetti as my guide; I loved exploring Venice with him.
A most enjoyable narrative – I will add this author on my must read list.