When Gonzalo Rodríguez de Tejada, an elderly connoisseur of art and boys, decides to adopt a much younger man his friends don’t like it. However, is a case of prospective gold-digging something Commissario Brunetti should concern himself with? Thankfully, his latest Venetian mystery — the 28th! — is just like all the others: atmospheric, clever, witty and amusing. If I were only allowed to read one crime series again it would be that of Donna Leon.
If you’ve been with them from the beginning (Death at La Fenice, 1992), you will get the most from this thriller. If not, what are you waiting for?
When, in this ponderous tale, a murder is eventually committed, it is far too late to inject momentum. Tellingly, Brunetti does not think until the following day that he ought to have asked for CCTV footage of the hotel where it took place. All watchers of TV crime will be shouting at him as he heads home wearily, to sip verbena tea laced with cognac...This all sounds as jaded as Leon’s view of Venice, but to wave this novel through without complaint would not do justice to Leon’s punchy earlier books. As has been growing increasingly evident, her sparkle and fire have faded. Unto Us A Son Is Given raises the question that dogs every long-running series: when to pull the plug. Unless characters evolve or situations change, there is only so much of the familiar that a novelist can serve up.