Give Unto Others - Reviewed by Fiona Robinson | Regional News Connecting Wellington

Give Unto Others

Written by: Donna Leon

Penguin Books New Zealand

Reviewed by: Fiona Robinson

I had to put pen to paper as soon as I’d finished Donna Leon’s latest novel Give Unto Others so no other fans of detective novels made the same mistake as me. My error was not reading this author sooner. 

Donna Leon’s writing is beautiful. Her character descriptions, particularly of her older characters, are exquisite in the little details of behaviour and interplay that reveal so much about the person. Her treatment of a scene where a former vice admiral with Alzheimer’s disease – a proud man with status – pockets the silver cutlery at a dinner and a conversation between the detective and a former upper-class neighbour are so gentle in capturing the unsaid that it would be easy to underestimate the quality of the writing.

A bit about the plot before I go on. This is the latest in a series of crime novels set in Venice, featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. Brunetti is twiddling his thumbs in between COVID lockdowns and so agrees to look into the seemingly innocent concerns of a former neighbour and family friend about her son-in-law’s business. This sends him on a twisting path to get to the truth. He and the reader begin to wonder who is pulling the strings and whether Brunetti’s sense of obligation to an old family friend will get him into trouble.

Usually when I read a crime novel, I race through it to find out the killer. Donna Leon’s descriptions are so gentle yet so captivating that it forced me to slow down and enjoy every sentence. The pace of the novel though is spot on.

Occasionally – not often – as a reader I get a glimpse of a writer at the top of their game. Donna Leon, at 80 years old, is definitely a writer at the top of her game. I hope she has many more novels yet to come to share with this newfound fan.

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