catholic church

In Quietly in Their Sleep, Donna Leon’s intrepid Italian policeman, Commissario Guido Brunetti, receives a visit from one of the nuns who has been caring for his aged mother in a nursing home. He knows her as Suor’ Immacolata (Sister Immaculate) though she has shed her habit and appears panicked. She tells a confused story about a cluster of deaths in the nursing home which she found suspicious. Her efforts to question the circumstances of those deaths had been rebuffed by her Mother Superior and her confessor. Their response was to transfer her summarily to another nursing home where her suspicions were heightened.

Even though there is no clear case for a police investigation, Brunetti feels compelled to look into the matter because Suor’ Immacolata had treated his mother with loving care and he perceives her as being unfailingly honest. His ensuing inquiry brings him into face-to-face conflict with religious fanatics, powerful officials in the Catholic Church, and, eventually, with his flagrantly incompetent boss, all of whom try to shut him down.

Quietly in Their Sleep (Commissario Brunetti #6) by Donna Leon @@@ (3 out of 5)

Unaccountably, Donna Leon has lived in Venice for a quarter-century — unaccountably, because she has a pronounced habit of taking on one or another ugly aspect of Italian culture in each of the novels in the Commissario Brunetti series. Quietly in Their Sleep spotlights corruption and misuse of power in the Italian Church. Venal prelates, obsequious nuns, religion-0bsessed laypeople, and even Opus Dei, a powerful right-wing Catholic secret society, all make appearances in this novel. Unfortunately, though the story is intriguing, the quality of Leon’s writing here is not at the level of the first five novels in the series. (Quietly in Their Sleep is the sixth.) The tale is simplistic and predictable. But I’m not giving up yet on the series. Maybe the seventh will be better.

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