Heinemann £16.99 (278pp) £15.39 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 0870 079 8897

About Face, By Donna Leon

The very first sentences of About Face showcase Donna Leon's elegant, effortless style. She captures the mesmerising effect of a cool blonde in high heels and expensive fur coat, glimpsed on an icy evening, in a handful of simple lines. It's Commissario Guido Brunetti who is captivated by this fair stranger who, it transpires, is at the heart of Leon's 18th novel to feature the Venetian policeman.

At a dinner party held by his in-laws, the Conte and Contessa Falier, Brunetti meets Franca Marinella, the woman who caught his eye. At first shocked by her appearance - the result, it seems, of an ill-conceived face-lift, which is described in such a way as to seem almost impossible ("her cheekbones...[were] taut, pink nodes the size of a kiwi fruit") - the Commissario is even more surprised when Marinella reveals her knowledge of Cicero and Virgil.

The Conte asks Brunetti to look into the business affairs of Marinella's husband with a view to doing business with him. Meanwhile, a visit from an out-of-town Carabinieri, one Maggior Filippo Guarino, sets Brunetti on a trail that leads him through the dirty business of Italy's waste disposal trade and the Camorra's increasing involvement in it.

What follows is a discourse on business opportunities in China, corruption Italian-style and the dangerous world of refuse collection, with a passing study of the unglamorous reality of gambling thrown in. It's testament to Leon's skill as a storyteller that these disparate elements blend into yet another great Brunetti outing. She combines the minutiae of daily life in Venice with pitch-perfect descriptions of police procedure, the now-familiar rhythms of Brunetti's home life with a ferocious knowledge of literature, delivered - how else? - with a sure, yet light, touch.

As Brunetti ponders the mysteries of Signora Marinella, we are given a guided tour of the unlovely side of La Serenissima, where heavy industry, and its handmaiden pollution, are just as much a part of the landscape as islands and canals. When Guarino is found dead, the victim of what is made to look like a random robbery, Brunetti is drawn into a world where trafficking toxic waste to developing countries is seen as a business opportunity and appearances are always deceptive.

But against this backdrop of villainy in Venice, there are smaller-scale developments in Brunetti's life. He realises how fond he has grown of his father-in-law, despite the older man's ruthless money-making ways, meditates on his love for his wife, Paola, and ponders the other man in her life, one Henry James. The details of home-cooked meals and family arguments, alongside a never-ending flow of crime, add a depth to Leon's stories and are what makes her characters so believable and, in turn, her books so readable.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before