Review by Booklist Review
Although celebrated crime writer Leon describes herself as "feckless and unthinking by nature," she is anything but in the pages of her sprightly memoir, where she focuses the same keen eye for detail and backstory that infuses her beloved, long-running Venetian mystery series featuring Guido Brunetti. From a rural New Jersey childhood filled with farm escapades, vibrant relatives, and character-defining rites of passage, Leon's zesty, adventurous spirit presented early on and was honed through college and its aftermath with the acceptance of teaching positions in locations as disparate as Iran, China, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia. It was Venice that captured her heart as the cultural center for all the things she loved the most, from opera to cappuccino to the stealth strategies of grocery-hunting grandmothers. Leon is coy and discerning in the anecdotes she selects to chronicle her 80 years on Earth, whether lamenting Venice's environmental degradation or reveling in the works of Handel. Though fans will bask in these candid glimpses, one need not be a devoted Brunetti aficionado to appreciate Leon's delightfully spirited account of a life well lived.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Silver Dagger Award winner Leon (the Guido Brunetti series) underwhelms with this meandering series of reflections on her life and work. In 30 short chapters, Leon recounts the "unusual things" she's seen and done across eight decades, leaping around in chronology and subject matter. Early reminiscences about growing up in 1950s New Jersey are amusing--she paints an especially vivid picture of her aunt Gert, a "pillar of the church" and an unrepentant cheater at bridge--but too many entries fall flat: a two-page section in which Leon describes feeling abandoned by her mother when she's left at her first day of grammar school demonstrates none of the depth or subtlety that suffuse her fiction. The author's accounts of teaching English in Iran in the 1970s and inventing the off-color, Monopoly-inspired board game $audiopoly("Caught distributing Bibles on number 7 bus. Fined 700 riyals. Lose one turn") while a professor at King Saud University in Riyadh are more interesting, but fans are likely to be disappointed by the lack of insight into her writing. In the end, Leon's early admission that she's "feckless and unthinking by nature and never planned more than the first step in anything I've done" appears to be an apt description of her approach to the memoir at hand. This disappoints. (Sept.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
In her latest book, novelist Leon ("Guido Brunetti" mysteries; So Shall You Reap) shares her own adventures through a series of humorous nonfiction vignettes. Now 80, Leon grew up in New Jersey and spent most of her adult life living and working in Europe. She now lives in Switzerland. Her memoir invites readers into her world of adventures, and she's certainly had plenty. To name a few, she taught English in Iran during the early part of the 1979 revolution and conducted classes in China and Saudi Arabia. She also went to Italy, where she created a life that outdoes her mysteries' protagonist. She vividly and engagingly describes her love of crime, Venice, and opera, her dream of finding the perfect cappuccino (more difficult than one might imagine), and the games she created with friends throughout the world. VERDICT Leon's wit and life well-lived will draw in varied audiences, who can live vicariously through her. Fans of her series will certainly enjoy this memoir and the brief letter she includes to dissuade them from trying to find Guido Brunetti at the Questura.--Rebekah J. Buchanan
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
This brief, chatty memoir by the author of the bestselling Guido Brunetti mysteries earns its title. Leon's approach to autobiography is pretty much the opposite of what readers may expect from the author of a successful series of whodunits. "I am feckless and unthinking by nature and have never planned more than the first step in anything I've done," she announces early on, and then proceeds to illustrate this proposition by one charming non sequitur after another. After brief chapters on her family, she turns to more or less disconnected anecdotes and discussions--e.g., the tomato-selling scam she ran as a young woman; a detailed description of $audiopoly, a "Bored Game" she developed with two friends to break the tedium of work they'd taken in Saudi Arabia; and recurring salutes to the music of Handel ("He's given me endless pleasure, and I shall continue to give him what he deserves: endless love"). The structure that emerges from these memories, which clearly bring Leon joy, is not so much episodic as essayistic. The author repeatedly avoids or understates obvious turning points like her decision not to pursue an academic career (though the reason she gives in passing is highly amusing), her professional activities, and her decision to move to Italy and then to leave 25 years later. Apart from her story about the fascination with honeybees that inspired one of Brunetti's most memorable cases, fans will search these pages in vain for any hint of her writing process. Her tone throughout, lacking both the delicacy and the gravitas of her detective stories, is so cheerfully self-deprecating that it seems especially odd that she takes time out twice to assure the readers she invites into her world--but rarely into her mind--that she's never used drugs. Delightfully approachable but disappointingly unrevealing. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.