I greatly enjoy Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti series of crime novels, set in contemporary Venice-and not just for the detection. Leon’s Brunetti has life, family, and love. This from Doctored evidence. London: Heinemann, 2005, ch. 9.
Paola had been as good as her word, for the aromas that met him as he entered the apartment were a rich blend of seafood, garlic, and something he wasn’t sure about, perhaps spinach. . . She was already seated at the table, a glass of white wine in front of her, reading.
‘All right,’ he said, ‘I’ll ask you what you’re reading.’
She glanced at him over her reading glasses and said, ‘A book that should be of great interest to us both, Guido: Chiara’s [their daughter’s] textbook on religious doctrine.’ Little good could come of this, Brunetti realized instantly, but still he asked, ‘Why to us?’
‘Because of what it tells us about the world we live in,’ she said, setting the book down and taking a sip of wine.
‘For example? ‘he asked, going to the refrigerator and taking out the open bottle. It was the good Ribolla Gialla they’d bought from a friend in Corno di Rosazzo.
‘There’s a chapter here,’ she said, pointing at the page she had been reading, ‘on the Seven Deadly Sins.’
Brunetti had often thought that it was convenient that there should be one for each day of the week, but he kept this thought to himself for the moment. ‘And?’ he asked.
‘And I started thinking about the way our society has ceased to think of them as sins or, if not all of them, has managed at least to remove most of the scent of sin that was once attached to them.’
He pulled out a chair and sat opposite her, not really interested in this latest observation but willing to listen. He raised his glass in her direction and took a sip. It was as good as he remembered its being. Thank God, then, for good wine and good friends, and thank God even for a wife who could find reason for polemic in a middle school textbook of religious doctrine.
‘Think of lust,’ she continued.
‘I often do,’ he said and leered.
Ignoring him, she went on. ‘When we grew up, it was, if not a sin, at least a semi-sin, or at least something that one did not discuss or present in public. Now you can’t look at a film or television or a magazine without seeing it.’
‘Do you think that’s bad?’ he asked.
‘Not necessarily. Just different. Maybe a better case is gluttony.’
Ah, that was to strike a blow close to home, Brunetti thought, and pulled in his stomach a little.
‘We’re encouraged to it all the time. Every time we open a magazine or a newspaper.’
‘Gluttony?’ he asked, puzzled.
‘Not gluttony for food, necessarily,’ she said, ‘but the taking in or consumption of more than we need. After all, what is owning more than one television or one car or one house but a form of gluttony?’
‘I’d never thought of it that way,’ he temporized and went back to the refrigerator for more wine.
‘No, neither did I, not until I started to read this book. They define gluttony as eating too much and leave it at that, but I started thinking about what it would or could mean in larger terms.’
That, it seemed to Brunetti, was the essence of Paola, this woman he still loved to the point of distraction, that she was always thinking about things—everything, it sometimes seemed to him—in larger terms.
‘Do you think you could start thinking about dinner in larger terms?’ he asked.
. . . ‘I’d probably starve to death without you to protect me.’ Brunetti said.
He thought of the kids, how tired they had been at dinner, while his eyes travelled down her body. He set his glass down on the table and leaned towards her. ‘Could we return to our examination of the seven deadly sins?’ he asked.