Considering my sensitive sensitivities, the book Unto Us a Son is Given may be just what I need. It is a murder mystery without a murder. Oh, wait, no. There’s a dead body on page 140. Oh, that’s a natural death. Wait, wait, here it is, a murder victim is discovered on page 169 in a fancy hotel in Venice, Italy.
And what, do you ask, is happening in the first 168 pages? Commissario Guido Brunetti is looking into the affairs of an old family friend, Gonzalo Rodriguez de Tejeda. This man is 85 years old, immensely rich, cultured, lonely and about to make a serious mistake. The murder mystery series, by Donna Leon, is set in present-day Venice where Gonzalo has a palace and a title.
Gonzalo wants to adopt a son, so when he dies, his fabulous wealth will pass to someone other than the state. He wants to adopt a man who is 40 years old, and who is an art lecturer. The young man also seems to be a professional dinner guest who gets by on charm. With no discernable means of support. This could get sticky.
Commissario Brunetti talks to an old friend, and discusses “predators and prey” although he uses the term “predation.” When he speaks, this character feels real; and the books in the series are intelligent. The author, Donna Leon, must assume that her readers are intelligent also. The events in the story do not reel out of control. It all feels as if it could happen.
There are other things happening in the book. The secretary who actually runs the police station in Venice is going on vacation. (Her boss thinks that he is in charge, but he isn’t.) The boss is having trouble with a disruptive kid who lives in the apartment below his apartment, and who has assaulted his wife on the stairs. There is a lot going on, all of it “sticky.”
Find Unto Us a Son is Given in Adult Services in the Pine Bush Area Library. Look at modern-day Venice for corruption and trouble. Look for the plot twists and ask yourself, who is the predator, and who is the prey? You might be surprised.