The Waters of Eternal Youth is the 25th offering from author Donna Leon in her Commissario Brunetti series and is every bit as well written as the first. Set, as always, in the beautiful city of Venice, this novel opens with Guido out of his comfort zone at a dinner party, where he is asked to reinvestigate a case from fifteen years earlier.
Manuela, the granddaughter of Venetian countess (and coincidently a friend of his mother-in-law), who had a morbid fear of water, was apparently pushed into the canal and suffered irreparable brain damage. A local, well known drunk claimed at the time to have seen someone push her in , but this was never fully investigated.
Brunetti finds himself almost inexplicably drawn to the case and as the facts are uncovered, further mysteries evolve.
As ever, this is as much a crime novel as it is a perfect depiction of Venice; a city steeped in tradition and history, yet subject to political unrest and at threat from an influx of day-tripper tourists who bring much needed revenue but who threaten the livelihood of Venetians who find themselves increasingly forced to leave their island home in search of a more financially viable place to live.
Leon understands Venice perfectly and weaves its history and special allure seamlessly into her novels. Brunetti is a perfect ambassador for the city; seeing both its splendid qualities but equally being acutely aware of the peril facing its future.
The family anecdotes: the mealtime discussions that are so easily relatable and the relationship between Brunetti, his fiery wife Paola and their children bring an element of normality amidst the criminal investigation and give the reader a clearer sense of what everyday life is like for Venetians.
This is not an intense crime novel, but rather a glorious mixture of everyday life and intrigue set against one of the most beautiful and evocative cities in the world. A thoroughly enjoyable read!