Earthly Remains takes readers on a wonderful journey to a little-known part of Venice called the laguna. As the novel begins, Commissario Guido Brunetti and a younger colleague interrogate a wealthy and powerful lawyer suspected of fatally drugging a young girl. The interrogation goes horribly wrong when the pompous suspect is almost attacked by the younger man. Has Brunetti lost control of his officers? His doctor surprises him with his wife, Paola's, diagnosis: “I think what you need, Signor Brunetti, is time away from the circumstances that cause your stress.” Paola urges him to take some quiet time away from the police department at a wealthy relative’s villa on Sant’Erasmo, one of the large islands in Venice’s lagoon.
At first, Guido enjoys the silence and peace of the remote island. He spends time reading Pliny’s Natural History. Davide Casati, the caretaker of the villa a widower who desperately misses his own wife, takes him on daily rowing trips to care for his beehives. The two men become friend and discuss bees, boats, pollution, family and life. Casati is comfortable in the peaceful and isolated laguna of Venice. When Davide mysteriously disappears after a storm, Guido is determined to find out what happened. What will he discover? Could Guido have been murdered?
This novel is quite a departure for Donna Leon. Police investigator Brunetti is not involved in a complicated case; he is on vacation on an isolated remote Venetian island in the beautiful laguna (“No buildings, no bright flowers, no shadow, no points of reference: Brunetti was as lost as any stranger in the streets of Venice.”) Earthly Remains introduces readers to a rather unusual part of Venice while gently exploring themes of family, grief, guilt, environmental pollution, climate change, corporate and social responsibility.
Donna Leon is an American author of the successful Commissario Guido Brunetti mysteries set in Venice. She lived in Venice for many years but now divides her time between Venice and Switzerland. Since her first novel, Death in La Fenice (1982) won the Suntory Mystery Fiction Award, she has received many awards including the Crime Writers Association Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction. Earthly Remains is the 26th novel in the Brunetti series.