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Suffer the Little Children: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery Hardcover – May 10, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Leon's 16th Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery, at once astringent yet lyrical, two rival police forces—Brunetti and his Venetian colleagues and the carabinieri—are both interested in a doctor who illegally adopts an Albanian infant. When three carabinieri break into the doctor's apartment and seize the child at night, they injure the doctor, leaving him mute. Much of the early action takes place in a hospital, and because Venetian hospitals appear only slightly less bureaucratic and Kafkaesque than their stateside counterparts, Leon's marvelous insights into Italian life, so sharp when she explores a military academy in Uniform Justice or glassblowers in Through a Glass, Darkly, aren't as fresh, sinister or compelling here. But once the IVs and bandages give way to vandalism at a pharmacy and the family secrets of a neo-Fascist plumbing tycoon, Leon regains her stride and the novel's last fifth is first-rate and masterful. Leon seldom delivers a "feel good" ending, choosing instead conclusions that are wise and inevitable while still being unsettling. (May)
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From Booklist

On the face of it, there is very little crime in this latest installment in Leon's long-running and justly honored series starring beleaguered Venetian policeman Guido Brunetti. A case of police brutality sets Brunetti on the trail of an illegal-adoption ring and, from there, to a scam involving pharmacists and doctors. But genre readers waiting for the dead bodies to start piling up will have a long wait indeed; it isn't until the last 20 pages that any truly violent crime occurs. Leon's legion of fans, however, know that the Brunetti series isn't about crime as much as it is about more subtle human failings, and there are plenty of those here. Wherever Brunetti turns in this case, he is confronted by ethical dilemmas and by disastrously rigid responses to them. "I don't have any big answers, only small ideas," he laments, while tussling with what to do about the immigrant who sells her baby, the couple who adopts it, the pharmacist who adds moral judgments to every prescription he fills. In some of the best contemporary crime fiction, the heroes are often overwhelmed by the riptide of violence that threatens to consume their lives; Brunetti is equally overwhelmed but by a more insidious foe: our compulsion to judge others and the way those judgments ruin lives. "Nasty little bastard," Brunetti's wife, Paola, declares about one of the principal's in her husband's case. "Most moralists are," Brunetti replies. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (May 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087113960X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871139603
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A New Yorker of Irish/Spanish descent, Donna Leon first went to Italy in 1965, returning regularly over the next decade or so while pursuing a career as an academic in the States and then later in Iran, China and finally Saudi Arabia. Leon has received both the CWA Macallon Silver Dagger for Fiction and the German Corrine Prize for her novels featuring Commisario Guido Brunetti. She lives in Venice.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By egreetham on May 14, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The familiar and enjoyable elements of Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti novels--trenchant observations of the beautiful and corrupt city of Venice, and an engaging and humane hero with rich collegial and family relationships --are abundantly present in "Suffer the Little Children." Unfortunately Ms. Leon has thrown the book off balance: her understandable distress at the situation she is depicting (the sale of babies for adoption) overpowers the story. It seems more something we are being educated about, rather than something exposed naturally in the course of Brunetti's investigation. We are not allowed to develop our own sense of indignation and sadness at what people will sink to and what terrible decisions we make--Leon does it all for us.

Although "Suffer the Little Children" is better than some of her recent work, it does not achieve the high standard Ms. Leon set for us in the earlier Brunetti novels.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Billy J. Hobbs VINE VOICE on April 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Attacking corruption seems to be a favorite theme of Donna Leon. And along the way, there's usually a murder or two to solve. And in the case of her latest Commassario Guido Brunetti thriller, Leon is, once again, on target.
This time the venerable Venice police officer is confronted with the issue of illegal child adoption practices and the accompanying ramifications therein. As in the previous 15 Brunetti novels, Leon looks at her home city and addresses one or more of its myriad problems, social and otherwise. Still, this series is not about Venice, which she loves, but those characters and issues that attack the sheer beauty and even moral turpitude of the Pearl of the Adriatic.
In "Suffer the Little Children," Brunetti early on is called to the hospital after learning that one of its doctors has been beaten almost to death by a police team, which had stormed the doctor's home and, aside from the beating, had taken the doctor's 18-month old son, which, as it turns out, is an adopted son. Thus the plot kicks into a higher gear. Brunetti learns, from his various sources and own initiative that adopting children is not only a lucrative business but also highly illegal in some circumstances. The ramifications of such adoptions, of course, is wide open. A second running issue in the book is the investigation of a pharmacy-doctor scam that seems to be widespread.
With Brunetti's ace team (Signorina Eletra and Sgt. Vianello, especially),
the cases eventually come to a conclusion. Of course, as is usual for a Leon book, the endings are not always satisfying to the reader who is looking for the "happily ever after" approach.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Chronepsis on September 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read all of Leon's Brunetti mysteries and this was the first time I was really disappointed. The story lacks focus and feels completely frazzled. There are too many things going on that never seem to get resolved. The writing style she uses for the interrogations at the beginning and end seems silly and doesn't make sense. I never felt a shred of sympathy for any of the characters, despite the horrible things that happen to them. I sure hope that she can find her old, captivating writing style again or I will have to just go back to re-reading her earlier novels.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Baking Enthusiast VINE VOICE on September 19, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Suffer the Little Children" is the sixteenth in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon. Its setting is a seductive Venice, where there seems to be a disproportionately high crime rate if fiction is to believed. Brunetti is called into hospital where a respected pediatrician has been taken after being beaten by the Carabinieri (military and police corps). The enraged doctor's wife informs Brunetti that they were asleep when three men broke into their home, took their little boy by force, and attacked her husband. The Carabinieri leader defends their actions by stating that the doctor had illegally adopted the little boy and they were ordered to raid the house. This case is not a matter for the local police, but Brunetti is inflamed by the events and can't allow the matter to rest.

As Brunetti, with his sidekicks Vianello and Elletra, continue to investigate what's behind this ambush, they unearth evidence, not only of an illegal adoption ring, but also of a carefully coordinated swindle of the health system involving pharmacists and doctors. The tangential connection between these two plotlines is revealed late in the story and a twist in the last few pages reveals something far more sinister.

I've always enjoyed a Donna Leon book, but I've to say that this wasn't as cleverly plotted as the others. The story lags at several spots and given that the premise was not exciting to begin with, it gets even drabber as the story progresses. If read as a conventional mystery, there's no excitement or challenge of solving a bona fide puzzle, and the revelation of the villain at the end is no surprise.

However, if read as social commentary, it fares much better. Brunetti is a man of conscience and serves as the moral compass in Leon's novels.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A. Kueppers on April 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
After years of producing top crime novels, this one is an absolute let-down for Donna Leon fans. The story about baby trafficking, which should have made a truly interesting plot, drags on forever without any real purpose and Brunetti acts without his previous spark and enthusiasm and worse, it seems without any knowledge of basic police work.

Except for a few new recipes and some interesting facts from Vencie, this thriller is written without any effort as to research and investigation of the topic.
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