I’m of two minds about the title of this book by Donna Leon. The title, The Girl of his Dreams, suggests that the book is a romance, but this book falls into the mystery genre. It is however, a great title for this book. “The girl of his dreams” is a young gypsy girl who has fallen into a canal in Venice, and her image haunts Commissario Guido Brunetti’s dreams.
The girl is gypsy, or Rom, as they are now called by the commissario’s politically correct superiors. The Rom in Italy live on the fringes of society, and survive by working where they can, or stealing. Often the children are sent to do the stealing because they cannot be charged with theft.
In the book the child has slipped into the canal, drowned, and stolen goods are found on her during the autopsy. But did she slip, or was she pushed. That is what Brunetti wants to find out. But while his superiors attend conferences on dealing with the ostracized, and write memos about cultural sensitivity, they are quick to throw up their hands and dismiss this case. With single-minded determination Brunetti fits together the pieces of this puzzle, and all the while the reader suspects he may be committing professional suicide.
This book is more than just a murder mystery. Particularly enjoyable are the glimpses we get of everyday life in Venice. The Venitians set their own pace centering on family, food, and friendships. This was the first Donna Leon mystery I’ve read, and I will definitely try others.