Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Donna Leon, Suffer the Little Children

I'm lagging a little behind Donna Leon's publishing schedule. I read (or heard the audio version, actually) Through a Glass Darkly not too long ago, and just read (heard, again) Suffer the Little Children, published last year. I haven't quite caught up--The Girl of His Dreams came out a couple of months ago. Leon's novels of Venice, starring laconic Commissario Guido Brunetti, is unconventional in many ways, as evidenced by Suffer the Little Children. Though a reader knows that the two plots (concerning a pharmacist engaging in fraud and a baby-selling ring) will converge, they do so in unexpected ways. And as is usually the case in Leon's books, there's no gunplay, no dramatic arrest, and in this case not even a corpse. The opening is certainly dramatic, armed men breaking into an apartment and assaulting the inhabitants, but the conclusion is a dramatic twist of a sort that is vintage Leon--a twist that is a downbeat, tragic mistake (though involving justice of a sort, and her novels often end with no justice for the victims). Venality, righteousness, ideology, sympathy, and desperation are elements swirling around a sterile doctor desperate for a child, a self-righteous pharmacist who believes evil should be punished, a neo-fascist father-in-law, and the usual appearances of Brunetti's family and his associates (competent and incompetent) at the Questura. There is also Leon's usually comedy (often ironic), though Suffer the Little Children is more melancholy than funny--Through a Glass Darkly was the funniest of the series so far, at least of the ones I remember. I mentioned in my post about Through a Glass Darkly that I can't figure out why the reader, David Collacci in that book and Suffer the Little Children, renders all the dialogue in English with an Italian accent, which is both strange and a bit irritating. But the reading moves along briskly, and this and the previous novel proved good company on a road trip yesterday. I'll think I'll turn to printed rather than recorded books for my next Leon story, though.

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