Cover image for Unto us a son is given
Title:
Unto us a son is given
ISBN:
9780802129116
Edition:
1st Grove Atlantic ed.
Physical Description:
259 pages : maps ; 24 cm.
Geographic Term:
Summary:
"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. --
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Summary

Summary

"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.


Author Notes

Donna Leon was born on September 29, 1942 in Montclair, New Jersey. She taught English literature in England, Switzerland, Iran, China, Italy and Saudi Arabia. She is the author of a Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery series. Friends in High Places, a novel from the series, won the Crime Writers Association Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction in 2000. German Television has produced 16 Commissario Brunetti mysteries for broadcast. She was a crime reviewer for the Sunday Times. She has written the libretto for a comic opera and has set up her own opera company, Il Complesso Barocco. Her titles Jewels of Pardise, The Golden Egg, By Its Cover, Falling in Love and The Waters of Eternal Youth made The New York Times Bestseller List.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Italy's inheritance laws figure prominently in bestseller Leon's sobering 28th Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery (after 2018's The Temptation of Forgiveness). The Venetian policeman is asked by his father-in-law, Count Orazio Falier, to check out Attilio Circetti, Marchese di Torrebardo. The count's best friend, Gonzalo RodrA-guez de Tejeda, proposes to adopt Circetti and make him the heir of Gonzalo's considerable estate. As little is known about the prospective adoptee, and Gonzalo's wealthy siblings are alarmed by their aged relative's intention, the count suspects that his friend may be subject to other forces besides affection. Though Brunetti's respect for both the charming Gonzalo and his wise father-in-law places him in an awkward position, he agrees to investigate. When Gonzalo dies, followed swiftly by the murder of one of his oldest friends, it seems clear to Brunetti that Gonzalo's plans have set a nefarious plot in motion. Leon provides a sad reflection on the devastating impact of selfish desires on innumerable lives. Agent: Susanne Bauknecht, Diogenes Verlag (Switzerland). (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Once again, Leon transforms what might have been a straightforward mystery into something much richer and more resonant in this case, a meditation on love, loss, family, and prejudice. When Venice police commissario Guido Brunetti is asked by his father-in-law to investigate the young man whom a close family friend, 85-year-old Gonzalo Rodriguez de Tejada, plans to legally adopt and thus, according to Italian law, make the sole heir to Gonzalo's considerable wealth Brunetti is taken aback. What business is it of his or anyone's to interfere with Gonzalo's plans? And, yet, there are concerns that Gonzalo, who is gay, is being taken advantage of by the younger man, with whom Gonzalo appears smitten. Would Gonzalo's friends and family make the same assumptions if Gonzalo were heterosexual, Brunetti wonders, prompting him to doubt his own assumed freedom from prejudice. When Gonzalo dies suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage, and his oldest friend, in Venice to organize a memorial, is murdered shortly thereafter, Brunetti is forced to investigate the crime, knowing that even finding the killer can never lessen the human tragedy that stands behind it. Many crime novels place domestic story lines alongside crime plots, but Leon masterfully blends the two, enhancing our understanding of both. It is in Brunetti's conversations with his wife and children, and in his musings on his reading (in this case, Euripides' The Trojan Women) that we come to feel the full force of how preconceived notions about gender and sexuality can erode even the seemingly strongest of relationships. Far more than whodunit, the real subject of this novel (and Leon's work in general) is what we all do to one another. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Like Louise Penny, Leon has cultivated an utterly devoted audience, ever anxious to get to know more about her characters.--Bill Ott Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

It took 14 years, beginning with The Power of the Dog in 2005, but Don Winslow has finally finished his monumental trilogy about the Mexican drug cartels and, on the other side of the border, the American dealers, fixers and addicts who keep the trade flourishing. THE BORDER (Morrow/ HarperCollins, $28.99) is a mighty book, overflowing with dramatic subplots populated by characters who come and go and are killed off with alarming frequency. In one disturbing sequence, inspired by a real-life atrocity, 43 Mexican students are dragged from their tour buses and immolated. At the other end of this devastating spectrum, a college freshman on Staten Island gets hooked on heroin and prostitutes herself for a fix. A D. E. a. agent named Art Keller is both our guide through this world and an active player in its scenes of unflinching violence - as well as surprising tenderness. Since he emerged from an operation in the jungles of Guatemala in 2012, he has been obsessed with bringing down Adán Barrera, the ruthless fictional godfather Winslow has placed at the head of the real-life Sinaloa drug cartel. With its rival, the Zetas, wiped out, Sinaloa rules the trade. When Barrera falls, caravans of narcos make their way up twisted country roads to pay their respects at his funeral; then they fight to the death to succeed him. Winslow writes like someone who's been to hell and back and can't wait to talk about the experience. He especially wants to make the point, as one Mexican woman puts it, that her government (and, by implication, ours) is not serious about shutting down the drug trade, it's serious about managing the drug trade. Whether good, bad or altogether hopeless, his characters are full of life and hard to forget. Among the most lethal: Ruben Ascensión, called El Cachorro, the Puppy, and Belinda Vatos, adored as a narco rock star. Although Winslow's plot is epic-scaled and intended to raise serious issues about the drug trade as a major American industry, it's those multiple generations of crazy narco families that really make his case. Venetians love to gossip, Donna Leon advises us in unto us a son IS GIVEN (Atlantic Monthly, $26) , her latest mystery featuring that most compassionate of policemen, Guido Brunetti, commissario di polizia. There's bound to be talk when Gonzalo Rodriguez de Tejeda, the rich Spanish godfather of Brunetti's wife, Paola, adopts his lover and makes the young man his legal heir. To the degree that we love Gonzalo, we can be concerned for him, Paola says, but we cannot gossip about him, at least not at this table. To keep peace in the family, Brunetti agrees; but as a devotee of the classics he can't help thinking of Caesar's designated heir, his nephew Octavian, whose accursed lineage handed Rome to the likes of Tiberius, Caligula and Nero. Things turn ugly when Gonzalo unexpectedly dies on a visit to his family in Madrid, and uglier still when his best friend, who has traveled from Yorkshire to Venice for the funeral, is strangled at her hotel. Of course, Brunetti has seen crimes like this before, but this cop is neither jaded nor callous, and he has that rare quality Italians would call un cuore d'oro, a heart of gold. Comic crime capers are fun. Comic crime capers starring women are even more fun. William Boyle delivers some choice laughs and a terrific trio of felons in A FRIEND IS A GIFT YOU GIVE YOURSELF (Pegasus Crime, $25.95) . This jaunty escapade begins in Brooklyn when Rena Ruggiero, the 60-year-old widow of a departed wiseguy, slugs Enzio, her 80-year-old neighbor, for putting the moves on her. Thinking she's killed him, Rena jumps into Enzio's spiffy '62 Chevy Impala and heads for her daughter Adrienne's house in the Bronx. For good reason, Adrienne can't go on the lam, but her 15-year-old daughter, Lucia, thinks grandma is cool. With the addition of an ex-porn star, Lacey Wolfstein, the Chevy is full of adventurous females and good to go on a road trip that's so much fun you don't want it to end. GREG ILES'S books often take place in beleaguered small towns in Mississippi like Bienville, the fictional setting of CEMETERY ROAD (Morrow/HarperCollins, $28.99) . Faithful to formula, his stock characters face unlikely predicaments that are resolved through familiar plot devices. Here it's the murder of an archaeologist who unearths historical artifacts that pose a serious threat to a projected paper mill. But there's something about Bienville that rings true, something about the plight of small towns all over the South struggling to remain relevant in a modern economy. In fiction, if not in life, all they need is a hometown hero like Marshall McEwan to revive them. I'm a good Southern boy at heart, Marshall says, explaining why he has returned to care for his aged father and rescue both the family newspaper and the town itself. The story may be corny, but there's a terrific party scene set in a grand old hotel that luxuriates in one last night of glory. Marilyn STASIO has covered crime fiction for the Book Review since 1988. Her column appears twice a month.


Kirkus Review

What does a father owe his sonand what do sons owe their fathers? Venice's most thoughtful detective, Commissario Guido Brunetti, has occasion to ponder these questions in several forms during his latest outing.Surprisingly, Brunetti's own son, Raffi, doesn't play a large role, though we're treated to the usual Brunetti family conversations over delicious home-cooked lunches. The story begins with Brunetti's father-in-law, Conte Falier, asking him to look into something: There's gossip going around that the Conte's best friend, retired art dealer Gonzalo Rodrguez de Tejada, is planning to adopt his lover, Attilio Circetti, a much younger man, since that would be the only way Italy's inheritance laws would allow him to pass his entire estate to Attilio when he dies. The Conte is much too discreet to say it in so many words, but he wants to make sure his friend isn't being scammed. Brunetti doesn't want to get involved, but he finds himself moved when his father-in-law regretfully says, "I've just asked someone I love to spy on someone else I love." You can almost hear the song "Do You Love Me?" from Fiddler on the Roof playing in the background as Brunetti ponders the sentiment he's never heard from the Conte before. How can he say no after that? A few days later, another request: Brunetti's boss, Vice-Questore Patta, has a story about how his wife was insulted by an 8-year-old boy who lives in their building. He wants Brunetti to find out if there's "something wrong with the boy," and if not, to look into the parents' backgrounds. If the boy does have "real problems," he says, he doesn't "want to cause them more trouble." Could Patta be more sensitive than he always seemed? Eventually, of course, there are deathsone natural, one notbut as usual the mystery takes a back seat to Leon's (The Temptation of Forgiveness, 2018, etc.) beautiful writing and the pleasure of spending time with Brunetti and company.Leon says Venetians are "accustomed to swimming in the swirling froth of information and misinformation that flowed through so much of daily life," and readers can trust her to guide them safely to dry land. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

Each year brings the delight of a new -Commissario Guido Brunetti novel, and this 28th book (after The Temptation of Forgiveness) featuring the ever-reflective Venetian detective does not disappoint. While the title suggests a Christmas motif, the theme could hardly be further from holiday festivity. Rather, Leon explores matters of human vanity and frailty. Brunetti's powerful father-in-law, Count Falier, requests that Brunetti intervene in the affairs of Gonzalo, an old family friend, in order to prevent irrevocable folly. The elderly and openly gay Gonzalo has set about adopting the attractive, much younger Pucetti, so that Pucetti can inherit his wealth. It is clear to the Count that Gonzalo has been duped into loving Pucetti, who fails to reciprocate. As always, the skillful Leon weaves deft plot threads culminating in the inevitable exposure of Pucetti as a callous gold digger. Along the way, murder and perfidy abound, providing Brunetti with numerous investigative challenges. Ultimately, Brunetti muses about the profound nature of family ties and the danger of family secrets, inviting readers to do likewise. VERDICT Ideal for aficionados of Louise -Penny's Kingdom of the Blind. [See Prepub Alert, 10/1/18.]-Lynne Maxwell, West Virginia Univ. Coll. of Law Lib., Morgantown © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.