Brunetti is still as awesome as ever…
It’s hard to believe that Donna Leon has been writing her Guido Brunetti series since the early 1990s, and although there’s a little bit of variability from title to title (some stand out a little more than others), I’ve read each and every one, and all are excellent. And Leon’s thirty-second title, coming in March, 2023, is just as engaging as the previous thirty-one have been.
So Shall You Reap opens with one of those scenes that pulls me into a Brunetti book: although it’s a rainy, cold Saturday, and Brunetti would rather be culling his crowded bookshelves, he and Inspector Vianello instead end up heading off to the nearby mainland to retrieve one of their policemen, who’s somehow been caught up in a protest march that turned violent. And as they thoughtfully and sure-footedly navigate the somewhat tricky circumstances, and bring Alvise safely back home, I fell in love with Brunetti (and Venice) all over again.
The “real” mystery starts later, though, when a man’s body is found in a canal, and Brunetti realizes he has met the victim – a Sri Lankan man, Inesh, who seemed to act as a sort of factotum for a large palazzo near the Campo Santi Apostoli. Of course, as might be expected in the small-town atmosphere of Venice, not only has Brunetti met the man, but he was in school with the owner’s wife, and his father-in-law had recently expressed interest in the property too. What follows is a delightful mix of clues and investigation. Venetian real estate is a cut-throat business, and there are rumors that the rather large property is for sale. If so, does that have anything to do with the murder? Or might the scrapbook with articles about terrorism, found among Inesh’s books, give a clue to the crime? Why in the world would the Sri Lankan be interested in Italy’s “Years of Lead”, way back in the 1970s? Or could the owner’s efforts to reclaim his family’s disputed title have been involved? As Brunetti and his team investigate, they figure out piece after piece of the puzzle, and eventually the entire solution.
As usual with a Donna Leon book, there’s an underlying theme beyond the mystery itself, and So Shall You Reap is no exception. And although at some point that theme pretty much gives away the solution to the murder, the book is still a delight to read. Scenes in the Brunetti apartment, with Paola and the children, are some of my favorite moments of any Brunetti book, including this one. I’m in awe of Paola’s/Brunetti’s parenting skills, and would happily sit down to any meal at their dining table. (Leon has co-authored a cookbook with recipes…) And on a micro level, I, for one, really appreciated learning more about Brunetti while he was young, including the origin of his dislike of leather patches on the elbows of jackets – which turns out to be because these tended to be on the jackets of men who were rivals for Paola’s attention at university! Finally, although Leon is known for sometimes “tough-to-take” endings (see my review of Transient Desires here), this one is relatively mild, but still ties everything up.
All-in-all, So Shall You Reap is another truly awesome Brunetti mystery, and it gets five stars from me without a moment’s hesitation. And my thanks to the publishers, Grove Atlantic, for the review copy.