Brunetti under the Matterhorn

Although it’s mid-March and Bern’s parks are full of daffodils, Zermatt, home of the Matterhorn, is still white with snow. A posh ski resort disguised as a village, Zermatt is in Valais or Wallis, depending on whether you are in the French- or German-speaking part of the canton.

Zermatt is 1620 meters above sea level. From the balcony of our hotel here, I have an excellent view of the Matterhorn, which at 4,478 meters towers over everything else in sight. While my husband skis, I walk the well-kept winter trails, and so far, in three-and-a-half days, I’ve taken twenty photographs of the Matterhorn. Overkill, I know, but I find it irresistible.

Whenever I take a holiday of more than a day or two, I try to save at least one special novel to read. The anticipatory pleasure of knowing that a favorite author’s latest book is waiting for me always adds to the excitement of going on vacation. This time it was Donna Leon’s newest Guido Brunetti book, Transient Desires. I started it at our lunch stop on the way to Zermatt, and I finished it yesterday. That meant hours of time spent in the company of Commissario Brunetti and his wife and children. Having read thirty books about them during the past thirty years, I know them well and can’t wait to see them again, year after year.

I love the Guido Brunetti books. Neither thrillers nor even really whodunits, they are about trying to understand why people do evil and whether it is ever possible to achieve some kind of justice for their victims. As Brunetti and his colleagues struggle to uncover some version of the truth about a crime, they are blocked not only by individual and institutional corruption but also by society’s inertia. And by people’s fear. Some kind of resolution is always achieved by the end of each book, but—as in the real world—the true criminals sometimes go on with their lives, untouched by the law. Or remorse.

All Donna Leon’s Brunetti books are set in Venice, but she now lives in Switzerland. Other people can be on the lookout for Tina Turner—I’m hoping someday to glimpse Donna Leon on the streets of Zürich.

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