Another dead-Kindle-holiday-desperation read, and it wasn’t up to Jack Reacher standards, not even a little bit. People I know whose opinions I respect are fans of Donna Leon, and so I had no qualms about picking this up. And then I read the first chapter, was so bored I could hardly believe it, but managed to plough through it in a day and a half anyway. About Face is something like the 428,956th Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery. You’d think with that kind of practice (not to mention acclaim) that the book would have something to recommend it. It doesn’t.
At a dinner party at his in-law’s, Brunetti meets an intriguing blonde, who as well as reading lots of Cicero, also has a frozen face due to what seems to be excessive plastic surgery. This woman’s husband has made a business proposal to Brunetti’s father in law, and so Brunetti does a little bit of digging into him. At the same time, a Major in the Caribinieri comes to visit Brunetti. He’s on the trail of mafia-connected criminals who are illegally transporting toxic waste, and needs some help. Before long the Major is dead, Brunetti has drunk lots of coffee, and I had lost the will to live.
Brunetti is meant to be charming, thoughtful and insightful. I just found him smug and self-consciously quirky. The other characters are little more than cardboard cut-outs, and the dialogue is wooden. For some reason, Leon seems to think that detailing what he has for lunch and the pasta shapes his wife uses with different courses adds to the sense of how terribly Italian it all is. Bore off. I won’t be reading another one.