Thirty years ago, Donna Leon introduced to the world the first in a series of novels, set in Venice, which have become both successful and iconic.
Leon believes this is because her novels "show a Venice that is not often presented in English books nor much seen by tourists".
Venice is severely affected by the pandemic - quiet, full of "dead" shops, empty of tourists and literally devoid of crime.
Death at La Fenice also introduced her detective, Commissario Guido Brunetti, who Leon describes as "sane and decent, happily married, intelligent, a reader, dresses carefully and well, loves good food and wine, and also likes women.
"I think this is at variance with what many novels present as a protagonist or hero. People can be confortable liking him and do I believe, come to trust his judgement."
Leon has written a Brunetti mystery every year since. Her new novel, Give Unto Others, is the 31st in the series and is set in a Venice severely affected by the pandemic.
Venice is quiet, full of "dead" shops, empty of tourists and literally devoid of crime.
Brunetti is approached by an old acquaintance, Elisabetta Foscarini. Her family had lived in a much larger apartment above the Brunettis when they lived in Castello decades ago.
Brunetti remembers her mother's kindness to his mother, when food was scarce and Signora Foscarini would arrive with a pot of what she claimed was surplus pasta.
As a result, Brunetti listens to Elisabetta, who is worried about her daughter Flora, whose husband Enrico had "said something to her that frightened her...something about how dangerous it would be for them if other people learned what was happening".
Enrico is an accountant who had helped Elisabetta's husband, Bruno de Balzo, set up a charity to help a hospital in Belize but now he only works for a number of smaller clients.
Elisabetta asks Brunetti to investigate as a favour to a childhood friend and not as a policeman because, if the police are involved she tells him, "You know what a small city this is, how people gossip and repeat rumours, even about people they don't know".
Against his better judgement Brunetto agrees and asks his colleagues, Commissario Claudia Griffoni, Ispettore Lorenzo Vianello and the remarkable Signorina Elettra Zorzi for help in his unofficial investigation.
Eventually Brunetti comes to realise how he has been deceived and how Elisabetta's story is similar to the disease that has ravaged Italy and Venice.
"Get told what seems a simple event and soon it's expanding out of control; understand the basic facts, until a new variant appears.
"Believe you've found the source, only to stumble upon new information that changes everything".
Give Unto Others is a clever, complex story of greed, lust and manipulation. It is sophisticated reading.
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