Thursday, February 28, 2019
Unto Us a Son Is Given by Donna Leon
The blurb:“Your situation is always ambiguous, isn’t it, Guido?”, his father-in-law, Count Orazio Falier, observes of Donna Leon’s soulful detective, Guido Brunetti, at the beginning of her superb 28th Brunetti novel, Unto Us A Son Is Given. “The world we live in makes that necessary,” Brunetti presciently replies. Count Falier was urging his Venetian son-in-law to investigate, and preferably intervene in, the seemingly innocent plan of the Count’s best friend, the elderly Gonzalo Rodríguez de Tejada, to adopt a much younger man as his son. Under Italian inheritance laws this man would then be heir to Gonzalo’s entire fortune, a prospect Gonzalo’s friends find appalling. For his part, Brunetti wonders why the old man, a close family friend, can’t be allowed his pleasure in peace.
And yet, what seems innocent on the Venetian surface can cause tsunamis beneath. Gonzalo unexpectedly, and literally, drops dead on the street, and one of his friends just arrived in Venice for the memorial service, is strangled in her hotel room―having earlier sent Gonzalo an email saying “We are the only ones who know you cannot do this,” referring to the adoption. Now with an urgent case to solve, Brunetti reluctantly untangles the long-hidden mystery in Gonzalo’s life that ultimately led to murder―a resolution that brings him way more pain than satisfaction.
I've followed and enjoyed Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti series for years. Her latest novel, Unto Us a Son Is Given, gives us a deeper glimpse into Brunetti's relationship with his father-in-law, the Count Falier. The Count's best friend Gonzalo has become deeply involved with a younger man and is taking steps to disinherit his family by adopting this young man, effectively naming him his sole heir. Brunetti, Paula and their children consider Gonzalo practically part of the family, so Brunetti is unsure whether to intervene and in what capacity.
As Brunetti speaks to more of Gonzalo's friends, he grows increasingly apprehensive of the young man's influence and of Gonzalo's infatuation. Brunetti conducts his own quiet investigation - there is no crime - to help and protect Gonzalo but must also balance Gonzalo's wishes. Gonzalo's health has been bad and his death makes the investigation moot. Until a death occurs and Brunetti must determine the motive behind it and prove the killer's identity.
Donna Leon delivers an unusual mystery in that the crime occurs towards the 25% of the novel. However, she keeps us engrossed throughout because of Brunetti, Gonzalo, and our concern for the friendships involved. I thoroughly enjoyed Unto Us a Son Is Given.
About the Author:
Donna Leon is the author of the highly acclaimed, internationally bestselling Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series. The winner of the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, among other awards, Donna Leon lived in Venice for many years and now divides her time between Venice and Switzerland.