I went ahead and read another of Donna Leon's stories starring Guido Brunetti. I figured I had three more sitting there, and it wasn't as though I had much else to do, so why not? Plus, that leisurely pace of Death at La Fenice had been a different experience.
Well, Death in a Strange Country is a little more what I'm accustomed to when it comes to murder mysteries. Powerful people are committing crimes, then killing people to keep their original crimes a secret. Which means Brunetti is faced with people who have considerable influence and are quite willing to use it. Even so, there's only one scene I would describe as tense, where I thought Brunetti might be in danger.
The book ends in a somewhat similar way to the earlier story. Brunetti knows the truth behind the death, but no one is going to jail for it. Even so, there is a resolution, and some comeuppance, so that's good.
In the first book, Brunetti's son is described as being at that stage of adolesence where he's discovered how corrupt the world is, but doesn't believe anyone else realizes it but him. So he's self-righteous and irritating. In Death in a Strange Country, I wondered if Brunetti wasn't still like that a little. He uses his father-in-law - who has considerable influence and connections of his own - to look into certain aspects of the case. The Count does try to help Guido, but when all is said and done, Brunetti isn't satisfied, and wants to know why the older man doesn't do more with his power. Which doesn't seem to recognize that the Count's power isn't limitless, and he really didn't have to help Brunetti in the first place. He may not have done all he could, but even if he had, it may not have been enough, and would have exposed his family to danger.
It's interesting to me because Brunetti has the maturity to recognize governmental corruption as a regular part of everyday life, but in this particular scenario he can't tolerate it. He knows his immediate superior is only there because of connections, does no actual work, and will buckle the instant anyone with any influence even suggests they should drop a case. He accepts this and works around it. But he can't seem to recognize that with the people and governments involved, there are limits to what any single person could do. Legally, I mean.
So much like the first book, the plot wasn't terribly interesting, but the character bits, whether it was Guido's relationship with his wife, or a Carbarinieri officer, or the mother of a man he nce arrested, were the real appeal of the book.