Willful Behavior by Donna LeonWillful Behavior by Donna Leon
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Series: Commissario Brunetti #11
Published by Blackstone Audio on November 3, 2011
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 2 mins
Format: Audiobook
Purchase at Bookshop.org or Purchase at Amazon
Add on Goodreads

Mystery lovers everywhere are addicted to Donna Leon's ever-honorable Commissario Guido Brunetti and her portrayal of Venice's beautiful but sinister byways and canals. In Willful Behavior, Brunetti is approached for a favor by one of his wife's students. Intelligent and serious, Claudia Leonardo asks for his help in obtaining a pardon for a crime once committed by her now-dead grandfather. Brunetti thinks little of it-until Claudia is found dead. Soon, another corpse and an extraordinary art collection lead Brunetti to long-buried secrets of Nazi collaboration and the exploitation of Italian Jews—secrets few in Italy want revealed.

I don’t read the Commissario Guido Brunetti series in order. I jump around depending on what’s available at the library. The series is currently at 28, so Willful Behavior is toward the middle.

Paola, Guido’s wife, brings the case to his attention. One of her students has a question about receiving a pardon for her dead grandfather. She doesn’t provide many clues, just enough to make Brunetti curious. And then she ends up dead, killed.

This time the mystery involves events from World War II and Guido talks to his father-in-law and some friends about their experiences during the war and stories they’ve heard.

The most interesting part of the story for me was the history of Italy during World War II. I honestly don’t know much about Italy during that time period. World War II tends to come up in European mysteries much more than American ones, for obvious reason, but I still find it rather fascinating. Mussolini led Italy into the war in an alliance with Nazi Germany. Mussolini was ousted on July 25, 1943, not long after Allied forces landed in Sicily. Gen Badoglio, who replace Mussolini, reached an armistice with the Allies on Sept 3, and Italy declared war on Nazi Germany on Oct. 13, 1943, although many Italian cities continued to be occupied until 1945. Brunetti’s father-in-law says, “Just like the French, we couldn’t forget what happened during the war years fast enough. You know my feelings about the Germans…But to give them credit, they looked at what they did…The Allies, once the Nuremberg trials were over, would never have pushed the Germans’ noses in it. But they chose to examine the war years, at least to a certain degree. We never did, and so there is no history of those years, at least none that’s reliable.” I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s interesting in that different countries will look at their parts in conflicts differently, some will examine where they failed or were led astray and some will sweep anything they don’t like under the rug. Leon does like to make political statements with her books, even more than most mystery writers.

The mystery here centers around art. During the War, many Italian were desperate to leave the country and unscrupulous art brokers took full advantage of that, snagging masterpieces for pennies. The dead young woman was the heir to a fortune in art. But who knew that, let alone was willing to kill over it? I was a little sad about the killer and the motive. Leon manages to make even her secondary characters have their own personalities.

These books always make me want to go to Venice, even if Brunetti hates the fat American tourists.

View from the Bridge of Sighs
Peter K Burian [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

About Donna Leon

Donna Leon ( born September 28, 1942, in Montclair, New Jersey) is the American author of a series of crime novels set in Venice, Italy, featuring the fictional hero Commissario Guido Brunetti. In 2003, she received the Corine Literature Prize.

Leon lived in Venice for over 30 years and now resides in the small village of Val Müstair in the mountains of Grisons in Switzerland. She also has a home in Zurich. In 2020 she became a Swiss citizen. She was a lecturer in English literature for the University of Maryland University College – Europe in Italy and taught English from 1981 to 1990 at an American military base in Italy.

Her Commissario Brunetti novels all take place in or around Venice. They are written in English and have been translated into many foreign languages, but – at Leon’s request – not into Italian. The ninth Brunetti novel, Friends in High Places, won the Crime Writers’ Association Silver Dagger in 2000. German television has produced 26 Commissario Brunetti episodes for broadcast.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.