Give unto Others by Donna Leon

I have read Donna Leon’s Brunetti series since I read the first one many years ago and I see that she writes one a year and is now 80. I sincerely hope that she writes many more because as usual, I enjoyed the book.

I have to say that there was remarkably little crime in this story where an old neighbour/friend visits Guido to ask him to investigate why her daughter is scared about something going on in her husband’s work. Really this book is about time and about relationships. The book was published in 2022 and is set in the Covid pandemic times although not during lockdown and this has taken its toll on Venice. Shops have closed down, people don’t want to touch each other and ‘baby gangs’ are roaming the streets breaking into empty shops to see what they can take.

As ever, Guido is susceptible to taking on investigations that are to do with people he knows and this one is no different. As the investigation moves on, he realises that just because he knows the person he has not thought to investigate why they might be asking and whether what they are asking for is true and this leads him into difficulty. Time and perception has led him to think about the person as if they always tell the truth and that their motives are pure.

The passing of time is also reflected in one of the characters who has dementia, who ‘comes and goes’ in terms of focus but still has enough time in the present to respond to someone who has betrayed him. The difficulty of living with someone with this disease is well portrayed and integral to the story. There is though, less emphasis on the food that Guido’s wife cooks for him and at one point he says he doesn’t know what he wants for dinner. That has never happened before and I have to agree with him. After all the lockdowns I didn’t know what I wanted to eat which is really odd and of course you couldn’t go out to eat at that time either.

For conjuring up the Venetian respectabilities, relationships and architecture, there is nothing like Leon and in this sense the book lived up to my expectations. I almost feel like I am sitting there in the cafe with Brunetti having a coffee.

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