Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

Transient Desires

by Donna Leon

In the landmark thirtieth installment of the bestselling series the New Yorker has called “an unusually potent cocktail of atmosphere and event,” Guido Brunetti is forced to confront an unimaginable crime

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 288
  • Publication Date March 09, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5817-8
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date March 09, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5819-2
  • US List Price $27.00

New York Times bestseller

In his many years as a commissario, Guido Brunetti has seen all manner of crime and known intuitively how to navigate the various pathways in his native city, Venice, to discover the person responsible. Now, in the thirtieth novel in Donna Leon’s masterful series, he faces a heinous crime committed outside his jurisdiction. He is drawn in innocently enough: two young American women have been badly injured in a boating accident, joy riding in the Laguna with two young Italians. However, Brunetti’s curiosity is aroused by the behavior of the young men, who abandoned the victims after taking them to the hospital. If the injuries were the result of an accident, why did they want to avoid association with it?

As Brunetti and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, investigate the incident, they discover that one of the young men works for a man rumored to be involved in more sinister nighttime activities in the Laguna. To get to the bottom of what proves to be a gut-wrenching case, Brunetti needs to enlist the help of both the Carabinieri and the Guardia di Costiera. Determining how much trust he and Griffoni can put in these unfamiliar colleagues adds to the difficulty of solving a peculiarly horrible crime whose perpetrators are technologically brilliant and ruthlessly organized.

Donna Leon’s thirtieth Brunetti novel is as powerful as any she has written, testing Brunetti to his limits, forcing him to listen very carefully for the truth.

Praise for Transient Desires:

A New York Times bestseller
Named a Most Anticipated Book by Crime Reads

“Over the course of 30 novels featuring her compassionate police detective, Commissario Guido Brunetti, the American-born author has seized on fundamental Venetian plagues like government corruption, illegal immigration and badly behaved tourists. Which is not to overlook such scourges as bureaucratic inertia, rampant nepotism and rising seas. In Transient Desires, Brunetti raises a judgmental eyebrow at the follies of youth . . . Leon has a lot to say in this book about prejudices, many of which declare themselves through accents . . . Needless to say, by venturing outside the comfort zone of his own prejudices, this deeply simpatico detective learns a lot about his city, his countrymen and himself. And so do we.”—Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

“The 30th entry in Donna Leon’s procedural series set in Venice, Italy, and starring police commissario Guido Brunetti. This latest outing finds Brunetti investigating an incident in which two injured women, victims of an apparent boat accident, were left unconscious at a hospital entrance . . . Brunetti enlists the assistance of two colleagues he’s never met: an initially wary coast-guard captain and a senior Carabinieri officer. Their ad hoc team pools resources to connect Borgato to crimes both fatal and soul-destroying.”—Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal

“Brunetti is adept at navigating, literally, the canals of Venice and, figuratively, the treacherous waters of government bureaucracy and office intrigue. He’s also thoroughly devoted to his wife and kids, who are quick to offer smart, somewhat cheeky advice (and excellent meals). And he remains in love with Venice despite the ruinous changes wrought by centuries of visitors to his native city.”—Adam Woog, Seattle Times

“In the course of things, Leon as usual allows us time to absorb plenty of touristy news about little known parts of Venice; she’s particularly enlightening this time out on the subject of the city’s Giudeca neighbourhood. But it’s Brunetti’s sorting through the true narrative horror he’s forced to deal with that produces the book’s most ghastly surprise, unfolding under the Commissario’s unassumingly triumphant crime-solving.”—Jack Batten, Toronto Star

“Why would two young men dump two injured American girls outside a hospital in the middle of the night and then disappear? This is the question facing Commissario Guido Brunetti in a tricky case that requires the help of the Carabinieri and the Guardia Costiera to solve. What the Venetian detective and his colleagues eventually discover is genuinely horrific. The climax is nothing less than a trip—across the laguna—into the heart of darkness . . . Leon’s special skill is to splice glimpses of la dolce vita with acute analysis of moral and ethical dilemmas . . . The series that has shadowed Brunetti for three decades is an epic achievement—in its own way quite the equal of Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time.”—Mark Sanderson, Times (UK)

“This highly atmospheric, leisurely paced mystery will allow longtime fans to fall in love with Venice all over again . . . New readers will be able to discover the series here, and look forward to a long backlist. Brunetti continues to delight.”—Library Journal

“In her thirtieth mystery featuring Venetian policeman Commissario Guido Brunetti, Donna Leon once again invites us to be a part of this charismatic character’s world and family as he goes about solving a crime on the bustling and intriguing Venetian waterways . . . Fraught with danger . . . The suspense builds as we realize a good ending is not assured. Transient Desires packs a punch and stands out as one of Donna Leon’s best.”—Reviewing the Evidence

“A splendid read. Through Brunetti’s observations and ruminations, the author weaves Venetian history, architecture, aromas, tastes, and snippets of daily life and family interactions into an immersive narrative.”BookPage

“Leon’s devoted audience may be shocked to realize that this latest Guido Brunetti novel is the thirtieth in the series, which only goes to show that sometimes abiding relationships never lose the shock of the new . . . Leon’s beloved series shows no signs of aging.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Atmospheric . . . The action builds to a thrilling denouement involving coast guard boats and navy commandos.”—Publishers Weekly

Praise for Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti Mysteries:

“[Leon] has never become perfunctory, never failed to give us vivid portraits of people and of Venice, never lost her fine, disillusioned indignation.”—Ursula K. LeGuin, New York Times

“You become so wrapped up in these compelling characters . . . Each one is better than the last.”—Louise Erdrich, PBS NewsHour

“Donna Leon’s Venetian mysteries never disappoint, calling up the romantic sights and sounds of La Serenissima even as they acquaint us with the practical matters that concern the city’s residents.”—Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

“Few detective writers create so vivid, inclusive, and convincing a narrative as Donna Leon . . . One of the most exquisite and subtle detective series ever.”Washington Post

“The sophisticated but still moral Brunetti, with his love of food and his loving family, proves a worthy custodian of timeless values and verities.”Wall Street Journal

“[Leon] uses the relatively small and crime-free canvas of Venice for rips about Italian life, sexual styles and—best of all—the kind of ingrown business and political corruption that seems to lurk just below the surface.”Chicago Tribune

“Hers is an unusually potent cocktail of atmosphere and event.”New Yorker

“For those who know Venice, or want to, Brunetti is a well-versed escort to the nooks, crannies, moods, and idiosyncrasies of what residents call La Serenissima, the Serene One . . . Richly atmospheric, [Leon] introduces you to the Venice insiders know.”USA Today

Reading Group Guide

Reading group guide for Transient Desires by Donna Leon

1. What is Commissario Brunetti’s state of mind as he arrives at the Questura at the beginning of the novel? Why is he running late? How does he spend his day? What do you think is behind his “laziness and disregard for his obligations and responsibilities” (p. 11)?

2. When Brunetti visits Captain Laura Nieddu for additional information about the two men who dumped two injured American women at the hospital dock, she offers him files that include sheets of notes that he recognizes as “unrecorded and unofficial” (p. 35). How does Nieddu explain her documentation? Why is it necessary? What are its benefits, and its drawbacks?

3. Brunetti, too, has informal ways of gleaning information—whether from paid informants or even more dubious sources, via Signorina Elettra. Why does Brunetti ask Signorina Elettra to pursue “entirely informal, and equally illegal” means of finding information, such as juvenile offender records (p. 43)? Is he compromising his police work, or his pursuit of justice?

4. When he interrogates Marcello Vio, Brunetti realizes that he sees him as a boy, rather than as a man; he has a similar paternal reaction during Berto Duso’s interrogation, when the suspect calls his father. Later, he explains to Duso that he feels protective towards “the ones who find themselves in trouble and don’t realize that they’re good. In the ethical sense” (p. 238). Do you think Brunetti’s initial instinct and eventual feelings towards Vio and Duso are connected? Is the second possible without the first?

5. Why does Brunetti seek out Signor Cesco, the spazzino, to learn more about Pietro Borgato? How is Cesco able to observe Borgato’s business without being noticed?

6. “The mills of the gods grind exceedingly slow: those of the Italian bureaucracy, however, are capable of great speed, depending upon the impulse to which they respond” (p. 103). The impulses that Brunetti applies most effectively are personal connections. Does he have any qualms or reservations about doing so? What are the limitations or downsides of such arrangements? What are the benefits?

7. When Brunetti and Claudia Griffoni pay their first visit to Capitano Alaimo, Griffoni leans into her Neapolitan accent and mannerisms. What is Brunetti’s reaction when he sees this change in his longtime colleague? How does Griffoni hold him accountable?

8. “It was always easier to take charge of Patta when he believed he was in charge,” Brunetti thinks about his boss, the Vice-Questore (p. 187). What are the ways in which Brunetti “manages up” in the Questura? Is he always successful?

9. What changes Griffoni’s mind about Capitano Alaimo? How does Capitano Alaimo explain his own suspicions and behavior at their initial meeting? Both agree that “caution’s a habit it’s hard to lose” (p. 218). What type of environment necessitates this kind of caution? What are its costs?

10. How does Captain Nieddu first meet Blessing, and how does she learn the story of how the Nigerian woman came to Italy? What kind of help is Captain Nieddu able to offer in her official capacity, and in her unofficial one?

11. What is the nature of Marcello Vio’s relationship with his uncle, and in what ways is he reliant on him? Why do Brunetti and others finally agree that he is the “weak link” of his uncle’s operation (p. 224)?