Unto Us a Son is Given

Unto Us a Son is Given

by Donna Leon

Overview: 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.

Once again, Donna Leon brilliantly plumbs the twists and turns of the human condition, reuniting us with some of crime fiction’s most memorable and enduring characters.

Carole Zwicker (04/03/19): Unto Us a Son Is Given by Donna Leon is the 28th in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series but it easily reads as a standalone. Beautiful Venice is as much a part of this novel as Brunetti himself. Guido is approached by his father-in-law in the hope that he will discourage their mutual friend Gonzalo in his endeavour to adopt a much younger man as his son. The inheritance laws in Italy permit that this adoptee can then become heir to Gonzalo's entire fortune in the event of the old man's death. Guido sees nothing wrong with Gonzalo's plan but soon after, the old man collapses in the street and dies. It is at this point that the story becomes a mystery. I found that this book read more as a cozy than a police procedural. However, this takes nothing away from the enjoyment of this title. Although the action ramps up slowly, this novel packs quite a wallop. I look forward to reading other books by Donna Leon.
Rating: ****

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