Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Grove Press

The Waters of Eternal Youth

by Donna Leon

In the twenty-fifth novel in Donna Leon’s celebrated and bestselling series, Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti finds himself caught up in a tragedy that befell a girl fifteen years earlier.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 320
  • Publication Date March 14, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2637-5
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $18.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date March 08, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2480-7
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $26.00

About The Book

In Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series, the Venetian inspector has been called on to investigate many things, from shocking to petty crimes. But in The Waters of Eternal Youth, Brunetti finds himself drawn into a case that may not be a case at all.

Fifteen years ago, a teenage girl fell into a canal late at night. Unable to swim, she went under and started to drown. She survived thanks to a nearby man, an alcoholic, who pulled her out, though not before she suffered irreparable brain damage that left her unable to learn or mature. The lush claimed he saw her thrown into the canal by another man, but the following day he couldn’t remember a thing.

Now, at a fundraising dinner for a Venetian charity, a wealthy and aristocratic patroness–the girl’s grandmother–asks Brunetti if he will investigate. Brunetti’s not sure what to do. If a crime was committed, it would surely have passed the statute of limitations. But out of a mixture of curiosity, pity, and a willingness to fulfill the wishes of a guilt-wracked older woman, who happens to be his mother-in-law’s best friend, he agrees.

Brunetti soon finds himself unable to let the case rest, if indeed there is a case. Awash in the rhythms and concerns of contemporary Venetian life, from historical preservation, to housing, to new waves of African migrants, and the haunting story of a woman trapped in a perpetual childhood, The Waters of Eternal Youth is another wonderful addition to this series.


“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 . . . The Waters of Eternal Youth . . . [is] a bittersweet story that makes us appreciate Brunetti’s philosophical take on the indignities, insanities, and cruelties of life.” —Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

The Waters of Eternal Youth, the 25th Brunetti mystery, is every bit as smart and intriguing as the first book was a quarter-century ago . . . It’s no wonder this series is so popular with tourists that it’s inspired its own guided tours of [Venice].” —Christian Science Monitor

“Donna Leon’s 25th Guido Brunetti mystery, The Waters of Eternal Youth, is cause for celebration and a great read, both for travelers and those staying at home. Leon brilliantly exposes the corrupt world of Venice and how its past and present are often linked . . . Leon knows Venice and consistently proves that life in La Serenissima is far more complex, troubled, and dangerous than tourists flocking to St. Mark’s Piazza can ever imagine.” —Tavo Amador, Bay Area Reporter

“Leon’s latest novel marks the 25th anniversary of her wonderfully atmospheric series . . . A sweet poignancy flows through Leon’s narrative like the faint smell of chrysanthemums bordering the ancient palazzos.” —Carole E. Barrowman, Star Tribune

“Leon’s writing satisfies, much like the dishes that come out of Paola’s kitchen . . . Her characters are reassuringly familiar and likable . . . Like the great 20th-century crime writer Raymond Chandler . . . Leon treats murder as a simple (if evil) thing.” —Michael D. Schaffer, Philadelphia Inquirer

“A nuanced and beautifully written story. If you somehow have missed this series, be advised each stands alone . . . But it’s a good bet you’ll be compelled to read its predecessors.” —Fran Wood, NewJersey.com

“A new Brunetti adventure is always worth celebrating . . . the subtlety and sensitivity with which he approaches his work and his life . . . are on full view here . . . In a marvelous and moving last scene, we glimpse a moment of almost transcendent beauty that makes us realize again how important this series is to our reading lives.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Bestseller Leon’s poignant 25th outing for the Venetian police inspector . . . Leon deftly builds her plot against the struggles of contemporary Venetians . . . She draws Manuela and the contessa with skill and nuance, and longtime readers will enjoy insights into the past of Commissario Claudia Griffoni, the inspector’s colleague. Fans new and old should appreciate this escape into Brunetti’s elegant, sophisticated, yet troubled Venice.” —Publishers Weekly

“Venice might be sinking into the sea, but as long as Commissario Guido Brunetti is around, there will be someone to make sure the city doesn’t become a total swamp of cynicism and corruption . . . The usual suspects are all here . . . [and] the pleasures of spending time with Brunetti and the gang have never been greater.” —Kirkus Reviews

The Waters of Eternal Youth . . . is not only Leon’s 25th installment in her long-running series and one of the best, but also potentially one of 2016’s standout novels . . . The Waters of Eternal Youth has the most satisfying ending of any book I’ve read in recent memory . . . you are going to have to read this amazing novel for yourself . . . you’ll be glad you did.” —Joe Hartlaub,

“As Brunetti brings past secrets to light, readers can again let the usual pleasures of Leon’s series—a classy old-school detective, the rhythms of contemporary Venetian life, a familiar supporting cast—wash over them.” —Sydney Morning Herald

“The latest entry in one of the best long-running series in mystery fiction is just as good as one expects . . . This series is . . . superb, with its wonderful evocation of Venice’s streets and piazzas, food, and the wonderful moods of an old, old world confronting a very new one.” —Margaret Cannon, Globe and Mail (Canada)

“In Donna Leon’s elegant prose, the book is as engaging as its predecessors, but filled with much more than the usual pain.” —Toronto Star


A New York Times Bestseller
An Indie Bestseller
A SoCal Indie Bestseller
A Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association Bestseller
A NCIBA /IndieBound San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller (Hardcover Fiction)


“What was it you wanted to talk to me about, Contessa?” Brunetti asked.

“You know about my granddaughter?” she asked.

“I know only that she was injured some years ago, but I learned that from someone in the Questura, not from anyone in my family.” She cradled her glass in both hands. “You don’t need to defend your family,” she said, “but I’m glad you did.” She took a small sip and added, “I’ve known Donatella for more than forty years, and I’ve trusted her for most of them.”

“Only most?”

“I think it’s rash to give the gift of trust to people we don’t know well.”

Brunetti reached for his glass and held it up to the light, admiring the color of the whiskey. “The policeman in me says you’re probably right, Contessa,” he said and took a small sip. “This is glorious.” He set the glass back on the table. “But I assume you are going to trust me. That is, if you want to talk to me.”

“You drink it very sparingly,” she said, putting her glass beside his to show how much larger her sips had been.

“I think whatever you have to say to me deserves more attention than this whiskey, however good it is.”

The Contessa sat back in her chair and grasped its arms. Her eyes closed. “My granddaughter was . . . damaged fifteen years ago.” What an odd choice of word: “Damaged.”

Reading Group Guide

The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon

1. As the novel opens, Brunetti finds himself at a fundraising dinner at his in-laws’ palazzo. What is the focus of the philanthropic effort, and who is being solicited to donate? Why does Count Falier, Brunetti’s father-in-law, decline to participate?

2. “Only someone who wants something would dare that sort of flattery,” Vianello concludes about Vittori-Ricciardi after hearing about his sycophantic toast at the dinner (p. 18). Are Vianello’s suspicions a prejudice of his and Brunetti’s profession? How do others receive the toast?

3. Why is Contessa Lando-Continui convinced that her granddaughter’s fall into the canal was not a suicide attempt? How much does she know about the incident and the time leading up to it? Why is she asking Brunetti to look into a fifteen-year-old matter?

4. Who are the vu cumpr? How are they different from a new wave of African immigrants that Chiara and others have noticed in Venice?

5. “I’ve known him for so long, I’ve begun to feel something close to affection for him,” Brunetti says about his often obstructionist, obsessed-with- appearances superior Vice-Questore Patta (p. 124). Is he being sarcastic, or is there a grain of truth in his admission? If so, what is the source of his affection?

6. What is Brunetti’s impression of Manuela when he finally meets her? Of her mother? Why does her mother seem to have no interest in the original hospital report?

7. What kind of a man was Pietro Cavanis? What does Brunetti learn from talking to Pietro’s friends at the bar and to his pal Stefano dalla Lana?

8. Why is Brunetti skeptical when Patta confronts him with a letter alleging “grave irregularities’ from the Ministry of the Interior? How is he able to persuade Patta of his position? Our sympathies for Brunetti and Signorina Elettra aside, is there any merit to the accusations outlined in the letter?

9. What are the different ways in which Commissario Griffoni helps Brunetti with this case? How does she interact with Manuela, Signora degli Specchi, and Vittori-Ricciardi?

10. “Nothing’s helped her for fifteen years,” Contessa Lando-Continui tells Brunetti when she first asks him to take up Manuela’s case (p. 40). Does his involvement ultimately help the young woman or the Contessa? If so, in what ways?