Something has happened to Donna Leon, at least insofar as Paula Brunetti is Leon’s proxy. The hard-edges are off, the passionate contempt for the church has been replaced by something more like benign indifference. And Vianello, normally very broad-minded, has become a bit of a bigot towards Italy’s recent immigrants. He’s ashamed of his bigotry, but it is there and can’t be retracted.
Maybe the level of crime caused by the eastern European immigrants has finally gotten to Leon. I’m sure there’s a real problem, but it is disappointing that Leon seems to have succumbed, even to a small extent, to an issue that motivates the right-wing.
The Girl of His Dreams deals with the death, possibly murder, of an 11 year old Gypsy (‘Rom’ in the current parlance, apparently). There are between 40,000 to 100,000 gypsy/nomads in Italy - nobody knows for sure - making a living from theft and fraud, if this novel is to be believed. The girl was found dead in a canal, having fallen or been thrown off a nearby roof, with stolen goods hidden on her person. Brunetti is able to trace back to the owner of the goods, but both he and his wife have good alibis for the time of death.
The 2nd story in the novel concerns religious fraud - this time, an American-style evangelist who smooth-talks people out of their money. I suppose this is a nice change of pace - it’s not Opus Dei and the Catholic church this time around.
If you are a regular reader of the Brunetti series, then by all means read this novel. If you haven’t read many books in the series, then I would recommend starting with any of the earlier novels.