14 October 2009

Review: SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN, Donna Leon

This is a review that was originally published elsewhere and is now being re-published here.

Heinemann London, Random House, May 2007

In the middle of the night, just on the edge of sleep, Commissario Guido Brunetti gets an urgent phone call from Inspector Vianello. Three policemen who broke into the home of a local paediatrician have assaulted him and snatched his eighteen month old son. Even in his sleep-befuddled state Brunetti can hear the urgency in Vianello's voice. The doctor has possible brain damage, and, in Vianello's words, "We've got a mess."

On his arrival at the hospital Brunetti learns from the Carabinieri captain who led the raid that the invasion of Doctor Pedrolli's home is part of a nation wide investigation into baby trafficking. The charge against Doctor Pedrolli is the illegal adoption of his son Alfredo even though his birth registration shows Pedrolli as the father.

As always with Donna Leon's Brunetti series, this story is set mainly in Venice, but this time there is less focus on Venice and more on an issue that has become prominent in the Western world. SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN is a story set against themes of baby trafficking and surrogacy that have emerged recently in books by other authors. Declining fertility in the Western world is contrasted with the apparent fecundity of refugees and immigrants; and the desire of women for children is set against the apparent willingness of some to sell the only thing they can produce: their child. Brunetti's investigation takes him out of his comfort zone. His own love for his wife and children is a subtle motivator for him to get to the truth.

While the rising waters of Venice don't dominate this story, the reader is made aware that there are times when the tidal flow reduces accessibility, and at one stage Brunetti's assistant Signorina Elettra talks about the efforts to raise the sidewalks against acqua alta. I love the glimpses we are given of Venetian life: doctors and pharmacists who are defrauding the medical system by claiming for services not carried out; the influence of those who have money; the differences between the local police and the national Carabinieri are among them.

And there is always more to learn about Commissario Guido Brunetti. He is a fascinating protagonist. The interplay between himself and those he works with, and with his family, continues to provide interest.

My rating: 4.8

Donna Leon is an American author living in Venice. This is the sixteenth title in her Venice/Brunetti series -- she has basically published a book a year since 1992. For me the books evoke a wonderful sense of Venice which I have been lucky enough to visit several times. Her official website is at http://italian-mysteries.com/DLap.html .

June 2007 review first published on Murder and Mayhem

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks, Kerrie, for your 201st review :). I already Donna Leon very much, and I've been wanting to read this one. Now I want to even more : )

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