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Suffer the Little Children

Donna Leon

Donna Leon’s series featuring Venice’s own Commissario Guido Brunetti (one of the Hound's greatest crime fighters) has won her millions of fans. For those who love the series, each new entry is a reunion with friends and a trip back to a favourite place. This novel is the sixteenth in this series.


Donna Leon’s charming, evocative, and addictive Commissario Guido Brunetti series continues with Suffer the Little Children. When Commissario Brunetti is summoned in the middle of the night to the hospital bed of a senior pediatrician, he is confronted with more questions than answers. Three men - a young Carabiniere captain and two privates from out of town - have burst into the doctor's apartment in the middle of the night, attacked him and taken away his eighteenth-month old baby boy. What could have motivated an assault by the forces of the state so violent it has left the doctor mute? Who would have authorized such an alarming operation? At the same time, Brunettiâ’s colleague Inspector Vianello discovers a money-making scam between pharmacists and doctors in the city. But it appears as if one of the pharmacists is after more than money. Donna Leon's new novel is as subtle and fascinating as ever, set in a beautifully-realized Venice, a glorious city seething with small-town vice.

The real action in the novel begins in the home of Dr. Gustavo Pedrolli and his wife Bianca Marcolini. Late one night, a group of masked men bursts into their home and takes their adopted toddler son Alfredo. Pedrolli is badly wounded in an attempt to stop them, and is taken to the hospital, where Ispettore Vianello finds out what happened. It turns out that the men are members of the Carabinieri and when Vianello calls to tell him what’s going on, Brunetti is incensed at the way Pedrolli has been treated. But then he finds out a little more about the raid. It turns out that the Carabinieri have been sent because there is evidence that Alfredo may have been adopted illegally through a baby trafficking ring and that Pedrolli and his wife knew that this adoption was not legal. The Carabinieri aren’t very forthcoming with what they know about the trafficking, so Brunetti and Vianello begin to do their own investigation. Brunetti and his boss’ assistant Signorina Elettra Zorzi go undercover to a local infertility clinic that they suspect might be key to this mystery. Posing as a couple who can’t have children, they are soon contacted by a man who says he can arrange for them to get a child. Through this, Brunetti and Vianello find a connection between the clinic, Eastern European women who are in the country illegally, and several of the other families who were caught up in the investigation.

Woven through the novel are a set of interesting discussions about what “the right thing to do” really means.

Leon explores important issues such as baby trafficking, in a way that acknowledges their difficulty.

And then of course, there’s the beautiful city of Venice. My edition of this novel includes a map of the city, which is a helpful guide to the reader who’s not familiar with the city. There’s no doubt this story couldn’t have taken place anywhere else.

A solid set of mysteries with interesting twists, set in an unmistakeable context, Suffer the Little Children takes on some difficult topics in a very human way.


Review by Margot Kinberg, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist

About Donna Leon:

Donna Leon (born September 29, 1942, in Montclair, New Jersey) is an American author of a series of crime novels set in Venice and featuring the fictional hero Commissario Guido Brunetti.Donna Leon has lived in Venice for over twenty-five years. She has worked as a lecturer in English Literature for the University of Maryland University College - Europe (UMUC-Europe) in Italy, then as a Professor from 1981 to 1999 at the American military base of Vicenza (Italy) and a writer. Her crime novels are all situated in or near Venice. They are written in English and translated into many foreign languages, although not, by her request, into Italian. Her ninth Brunetti novel, Friends in High Places, won the Crime Writers' Association Silver Dagger in 2000.

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