Donna Leon is one of the legends of crime fiction, having been named by the London Times as one of the 50 Greatest Crime Writers. She is celebrated for her award winning series of novels set in Venice, featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. Transient Desires is the 30th in the series.
Leon's readers know they will follow her empathetic, introspective Brunetti through the canals and calli of Venice; enjoy his lunches with his family; relish his devious interactions with his contemptible superior at the Questura, Vice-Questore Patta; admire the dress sense and computer skills of the incomparable Signorina Elettra, Patta's secretary, and be appalled by the endemic corruption and the never-ending political incompetence in Italy.
The decency of Brunetti and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, however is never in question, as they tackle the mysterious case of two badly injured young American women left outside the Ospedale Civile in the early hours of the morning.
Brunetti is shocked when he sees the photos. "One of them appeared to have been badly beaten. Her nose was pressed against her right cheek and there was a long bloody cut above her left eye. The left side of her face was swollen". The other woman has her left arm broken in two places.
CCTV reveals the young men who left them and they are quickly identified as Marcello Vio and Filiberto Duso. They had picked up the women in Campo Santa Margherita, a favourite meeting place for young people, and taken them for a midnight joy ride in the laguna.
The injuries were caused when they hit an underwater pylon.
Brunetti wonders why the young men hadn't reported the accident, rather fleeing the scene after dumping the women.
What or who are they scared of?
He discovers Vio's uncle, Pietro Borgato, owns a number of boats and is suspected by the Guardia Costeria of smuggling.
Brunetti's search for the truth eventually uncovers the darkest of crimes being perpetrated by organised criminals in Venetian waters.
Leon is an accomplished crime writer, challenging her characters in Transient Desires with a series of moral and ethical dilemmas, set against the vivid backdrop of her beloved Venice.
Crossing St Mark's Square, Brunetti "ambled, delighting in the sight of the flags swirling about in the breeze, and the horses poised, front legs lifted delicately, gazing down the Piazza, as if pausing which way to go.
"How wonderful they were, even if only copies, how bold and excessive, like so much within his line of sight."
It's almost like being there.