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Unto Us a Son is Given: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery

Review

Unto Us a Son is Given: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery

I recently came across a review of UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN that took Donna Leon to task concerning her latest Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery. The upshot of the complaint was that Leon had placed the murder of the piece well within the second half of the book. It’s unfortunate that such a plot point disappointed the reviewer, especially given that there is no particular obligation on the part of a mystery author to contain any murder or other crimes. The only requirement is that there be at least one mystery. Leon gives her readers a murder, a mystery or three, and a great deal of other wonderful things in this 28th installment, which is arguably her best to date.

I may have made that last statement before in relation to Leon’s other books; if I have, it was true then just as it is true now. Leon makes it look easy and continues to top herself time after time after time. Brunetti is an immediately likable and unforgettable protagonist who, at the end of the day, is first among the equals who consist of what might be called, not altogether accurately, his supporting cast. They would include Paola, his wife, and his father-in-law, Count Orazio Falier, who has an immense fortune the province of which may or may not be entirely legal. It is Falier who gets things rolling in UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN.

"With each installment of the series, [Leon] continues to find and reveal new layers to her familiar characters and to Venice, which is full of quiet and enjoyable surprises of the cultural, geographical and architectural variety."

Falier gently tasks his son-in-law, a stalwart member of the Venetian police force, with investigating a personal matter. The Count’s best friend is an extremely wealthy gentleman named Gonzalo Rodriguez de Tejada. Gonzalo, an art dealer and patron, has announced plans to adopt a much younger man --- one with whom he has been keeping significant company --- as his son, who under Italy’s inheritance laws would then become Gonzalo’s sole heir. Falier is appalled by this decision. Brunetti reluctantly begins to quietly investigate the matter out of respect for his beloved father-in-law, even as he privately sees no reason why Gonzalo --- who also has been a friend to Brunetti and his family --- shouldn’t be allowed to do what he wants, no matter how much consternation it may cause among his friends and acquaintances.

However, when Gonzalo dies suddenly, if not altogether unexpectedly, his demise sets off a chain reaction of events that ends in a murder no one could have reasonably foreseen. Brunetti investigates using some good old-fashioned police work, deductive reasoning and a bit of 21st-century technology not only to ascertain the identity of the villain but to prove it as well. It is one thing to guess whodunit, but the difficulty here, not to mention the bombshell, is figuring out why. Brunetti does both with great aplomb, for which readers will be happy and grateful.

Even at this late date, Leon remains amazing. With each installment of the series, she continues to find and reveal new layers to her familiar characters and to Venice, which is full of quiet and enjoyable surprises of the cultural, geographical and architectural variety. You can start with any volume, but if you begin with UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN, you’ll want to devote time to reading the backlist. You won’t be able to help yourself.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 8, 2019

Unto Us a Son is Given: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery
by Donna Leon

  • Publication Date: March 5, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802129110
  • ISBN-13: 9780802129116