Donna Leon – Give unto Others

Donna Leon – Give unto Others

When Commissario Guido Brunetti is contacted by his childhood neighbour, he is a bit perplexed and does not know what to do. Elisabetta Foscarini is worried about her daughter Flora. She does not provide any real details but Flora’s husband Enrico Fenzo makes her feel uncomfortable. The accountant has helped her husband Bruno to set up a charity but then suddenly left the project to take care of other clients. Her feeling might stem from Fenzo’s business contacts but she cannot really nail it down. Brunetti promises to look into the matter even though he is not convinced of any threat. Since life has become slow in Venice due to the pandemic, he and his team have got the time to investigate the matter. Just when the start digging, Flora’s veterinary clinic is vandalised and some animals are seriously harmed. Soon after, clever Signorina Elettra finds some remarkable facts about „Belize nel Cuore“, Bruno del Balzo’s charity.

Not a classic murder investigation for the Venetian Commissario. However, Donna Leon cleverly integrated the pandemic into the plot which slowed down life in the Italian city due to the lack of tourists. Thus „Give Unto Others“ differs quite from the other crime mysteries in the series but in my opinion, it is a lot more complex and interesting since it is not that obvious where the investigation will lead to and the characters, too, have a lot more depth.

What brings Elisabetta to Brunetti is quite vague at the beginning, neither does she really know where her uneasy feeling comes from nor does the detective know where exactly to start and to look. As it turns out, things are not what they seem and people have motives they successfully hide for a long time thus exploiting others reach their questionable aims.

Rapidly, the story develops into a financial crime novel which is complicated on the one hand, and, on the other, tells you a great deal not only about people but also about legislation. At the end, you have learnt a lot of things you actually did not really want to know and again, the thin line between legal and illegal reveals itself to be quite flexible depending on the point of view: what is morally questionable might be perfectly legal.

A thought provoking crime mystery that, again, I thoroughly enjoyed.

Donna Leon – Earthly Remains

Donna Leon – Earthly Remains

While interrogating a suspect, one of Commissario Brunetti’s colleagues is on the verge of attacking the interviewee. Brunetti has to interfere and fakes a heart attack. He finds himself in hospital before he can explain what has happened. Albeit the doctor does not find any sign of heart attack, she nevertheless advocates for some time off for the commissario to recover from work. One of Paola’s aunts happens to possess a villa in Sant’Erasmo, one of the largest island in the laguna and so Brunetti sets out for some holidays without his family. He spends his days with the housekeeper Davide Casati with whom he likes to row through the laguna. Yet, after a stormy night, Casati does not return and to Brunetti’s sorrow, they find the elderly man drowned. Even though everything points at an accident, Brunetti knows that Casati has been preoccupied and wanted to tell him something he had been researching for months. So Brunetti starts to ask questions that were not meant to be asked.

Donna Leon’s 26th novel in the Brunetti series brings us again into Venice laguna with sympathetic Commissario Brunetti. What I like about these crime novels is the fact that they put the human being into the focus. We do not have the brutal, lurid murder cases, but everyday men and women who act in accordance with their beliefs and convictions and sometimes commit crimes without being thoroughly evil.

This novel is especially slow in pace and thus mirrors quite well the hot Italian summers. After a third of it, still everybody is alive and kicking and I already started to wonder if it could do without any murder at all. Well then of course we have a dead and some suspicion which actually leads to a case. Starting from only small points, the story extends in concentric circles linking the hints and in this way forming a complete picture of a convincing and logic series of events. The characters’ motivation of realistic and comprehensible. Yet, at the very end, Brunetti could surprise me a lot – even though his acted in quite an unexpected way, this was consistent with his personality.

All in all, the perfect crime novel for a hot afternoon.