Give Unto Others by Donna Leon – review

Source – review copy
I am, I admit, not a neutral observer when it comes to this series. I don’t look back and think what an investment in time I’ve spent on the 31 books. I think of all of the pleasure I’ve received in each of those novels. I would always recommend giving them a go, start with Death at La Fenice and see if you fall in love with Brunetti. If you do you have a whole pile of investigations to accompany him on.
For me it’s going to be a long, impatient wait, until the next book.
The gifted Venetian detective returns in his 31st case – this time, investigating the Janus-faced nature of yet another Italian institution. Brunetti will have to once again face the blurred line that runs between the criminal and the non-criminal, bending police rules, and his own character, to help an acquaintance in danger.
This is a crime series when oftentimes there is a question as to whether a crime has been committed at all. The books often look at political, environmental or social issues, commenting on the frustration of people having to face bureaucracy and corruption in the process. There is often the vague sense of wrong doing, not necessarily of a life threatening nature but rather of a threat to society. Such is the case with Give Unto Others. There is no murder to solve. There are contemplations on legal loopholes, exploitation of charities and exploitation of relationships as a means to an end.
Don’t expect a fast paced, action packed book. Give Unto Others is slowed down, thought-provoking reading. It looks at how far we are willing to go to retain control on those in our lives and how far we are willing to push the ethical work boundaries to help those we believe we may owe in some small way.
When Comissario Guido Brunetti is approached by an old neighbour he doesn’t know how he can help her when she details the vague possibility her son-in-law may be in trouble. It appears that no law has been broken and he would be intruding on a private family matter. But Brunetti recalls the kindness offered by the neighbour’s mother to his own mother and this drives him to look further, bending the limits of professional propriety in the process.
The books are as much about Brunetti and his family and friends as they are about any possible criminal wrongdoing. The reader has watched his children grow and mature, seen his relationship with his wife Paola define and deepen and eaten many a mouth-watering meal around their kitchen table. That sense of characterisation and connection is an important part of the novel and what drives this reader to seek out each new instalment.

Published by Hutchinson Heinemann
It has been 31 years since the introduction of Commissario Guido Brunetti in Death at La Fenice. In those intervening years readers have seen his children grow and mature, his friendships solidify or fade away and his relationship with his wife, Paola, continue to evolve. Someone new to the series may think that 31 books is a lot of time to invest in a series. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, that would be time well spent.
Recommended.
Publication date – 3 March 2022

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