I always like it when familiar faces from novels make a reappearance. I don't mean the standard major characters that you get in any fictional series - Harry Potter, Adam Dalgleish, Hercule Poirot; but the ones like Ariadne Oliver that appear intermittently and unexpectedly and are always a delight to meet once again, and to see how their lives have progressed since you last met them. (I suspect that I'm not the only reader who believes at least a little that the characters who become part of their imagination have independent lives outside of the time when you're reading about them). 

A case in point is Flavia Petrelli, operatic diva, who makes a reappearance in Donna Leon's Falling in love having previously appeared in the first Brunetti mystery Death at La Fenice, and briefly in the later Acqua Alta. Flavia is back in Venice after a long break to sing the leading part in Tosca. As beautiful and talented as ever, Flavia is more than a little freaked out after an obsessive fan breaks into her dressing room and apartment block to leave hundreds of yellow roses. But what seems to be an innocent if rather creepy obsession becomes much more serious as people close to Flavia are violently attacked. Is Flavia's stalker someone close to her, or, rather more worryingly for Commissario Brunetti, a lone mad voice?

This is a really well-written mystery. Plenty of character, plenty of suspense, and for any opera lover plenty of music (even if Donna Leon is not a great fan of Tosca, unlike myself). As ever the city is glowingly alive, and is as much a part of the novel as any character. There is a return to the humour of some of the earlier novels, as the battle between Brunetti's superior, Patta, the odious Lieutenant Scarpa (surely it's no mistake that his name is so similar to the also odious police chief, Scarpia, of Puccini's opera), and the Machiavellian secretary, Signorina Elettra gathers pace. There's also a cracking twist in the tail guaranteed to make any reader think about the morality of murder.

In the world of Falling in love the female of the species is definitely more deadly than the male. And, in view of Petrelli's earlier incarnations in the series, I'm not altogether sure what Leon is saying here about sexuality as well as about obsessive love. However the climax is quite extraordinary, and guaranteed to grip any crime afficionado. One of Leon's best.


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