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Give unto Others

Give unto Others By Donna Leon Summary

Exploring the wobbly line between the criminal and non-criminal, revealing previously untold elements of Brunetti’s past, Give unto Others shows that the price of reciprocity can be ste

Brunetti is forced to confront the price of loyalty, to his past and in his work, as a seemingly innocent request leads him into troubling waters

What role can or should loyalty play in the life of a police inspector? It’s a question Commissario Guido Brunetti must face and ultimately answer in Give unto Others, Donna Leon’s splendid thirty-first installment of her acclaimed Venetian crime series.

Brunetti is approached for a favor by Elisabetta Foscarini, a woman he knows casually, but her mother was good to Brunetti’s mother, so he feels obliged to at least look into the matter privately, and not as official police business. Foscarini’s son-in-law, Enrico Fenzo, has alarmed his wife (her daughter) by confessing their family might be in danger because of something he’s involved with.

Since Fenzo is an accountant, Brunetti logically suspects the cause of danger is related to the finances of a client. Yet his clients seem benign: an optician, a restaurateur, a charity established by his father-in-law. However, when his friend’s daughter’s place of work is vandalized, Brunetti asks his own favors—that his colleagues Claudia Griffoni, Lorenzo Vianello, and Signorina Elettra Zorzi assist his private investigation, which soon enough turns official as they uncover the dark and Janus-faced nature of a venerable Italian institution.

About the Author

Donna Leon, born in New Jersey in 1942, has worked as a travel guide in Rome and as a copywriter in London. She taught literature in universities in Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia. Commissario Brunetti made her books world-famous. Donna Leon lived in Italy for many years, and although she now lives in Switzerland, she often visits Venice.

Give unto Others By Donna Leon Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Brunetti had tossed Il Gazzettino into the waste-paper bin before leaving the Questura, but still he took the subject of one of the lead articles home with him. As he settled on the sofa with Cicero’s Against Verres and its denunciation of a corrupt official, Brunetti’s thoughts were frequently diverted to the cascade of money opened by the pandemia that had, until recently, so ravaged the country.

Not even the deaths of more than 125,000 people had put an end to greed – not that Brunetti had thought for a moment that it would – nor had it dulled the ability of organized crime to get its snout in the virtually unguarded trough.

Money had rained down and countless companies had requested compensation from agencies whose task it was to bestow the largesse of a frightened Europe. He’d cringed at the sight of some of the names he’d read, both in the governmental agencies overseeing the disbursement of funds, as well as among the directors of some of the companies receiving them. No doubt he and his colleagues in the Guardia di Finanza would become more familiar with those names as time passed.

Many companies had been rescued, many loans had been granted, and Brunetti knew that much good would be done and many who faced ruin would be saved. He was persuaded, however, that a fair share of the money would evaporate as it was passed on, just as he was sure many companies were being hastily created in order to do nothing else but fail and be bailed out.

Brunetti did not understand economics very well, but he was always alert to the ways people found to cheat and steal and was convinced that the financial devastation caused by the virus would encourage precisely those crimes. He was familiar with the techniques of pickpockets and muggers, who first created a disturbance that would upset and distract their victims, then struck them at their most unbalanced moment to take what they wanted. Although nature had created this other disturbance, enterprising criminals had soon seen a way to profit from the shock and confusion of their victims.

Il Gazzettino had reported that commercial property was currently passing from hand to hand with great frequency. This might seem an encouraging sign in a world of shattered business possibilities, perhaps even evidence of the renewal of the local economy, were it not for the concurrent reports in the national press about the present liquidity problems of the various mafias: they didn’t know what to do with all the money that was flooding in and needed to be laundered and reintroduced into the banking system.

Why not a prime piece of commercial real estate in Venice? Surely, the old patterns would be restored, the tourists would return, even the cruise ships would bob back to the surface again, although Brunetti, who viewed them as floating coffins, realized that was an improper phrase to use.

He pulled free of these thoughts, telling himself that it was far too soon to engage in this sort of grim speculation. There was always the chance that this universal brush with mortality would have some positive effect upon the way people looked at the world or ordered their priorities.

A noise in the hallway interrupted his thoughts, and he glanced up to watch Chiara disappearing down the corridor towards her room and her hermetic world of social media. Love and fear for his children fell upon him, followed by a surge of hope for a good future for them, despite the damaged world in which they would live out their lives.

Not liking his mood, he went down to Paola’s study and, since the door was open, went in. She was at her computer, glasses slipped down to the middle of her nose, intent on the screen. Without glancing up, she said, ‘I’m glad you’re home.’

‘Why?’ he asked, going over and kissing the top of her head, ignoring the screen.

She tapped out a few more words, removed her glasses, and looked up at him. He noticed that it took her eyes a moment to refocus on the longer distance.

‘Because you’re strong enough to keep me from climbing over the railing on the terrace and jumping,’ she said in the calm voice one used when giving directions to people on the street.

Brunetti went over and sat on the sofa, kicked off his shoes, and set his feet on the table. Her desk had no papers or books on it, only an empty cup and saucer for her coffee.

‘If this is university business, I can go down to the bedroom and get my gun.’

‘For me?’

‘Not at all,’ he said. ‘For the person you’re writing about.’ Then, before she could speak, and to cover all possibilities, he added, ‘Or the person you’re writing to.’

You’re right the second time,’ she said.

‘Who is it?’

‘That idiot, Severin.’

At first the name meant nothing to him, but then Brunetti remembered a dinner he had attended, under threat from Paola, about five months ago, where they had shared a table with her colleague in the Faculty of English Literature, Claudio Severin, and his quite pleasant wife, whose name Brunetti could not remember.

His wife’s not at the university, is she?’ Brunetti asked, remembering at least that much about her.

‘No. She’s a lawyer.’

‘Nice when people have real jobs,’ Brunetti remarked, and smiled broadly at Paola, hoping she’d laugh.

She did not, nor did she smile. That meant the matter was serious.

Brunetti started to ask what Severin had done to trouble her so, but he decided not to begin their conversation that way. Far more neutral to ask, ‘What are you telling him?’

‘That I disagree with his assessment of one of the doctoral candidates.’

‘Who is?’

‘Anna Maria Orlando. From Bari, I think. Pretty. Writes very well.’ Was this, he wondered, going to be a case of prejudice against women from the South who dared to be intelligent?

And?’ he asked.

And Severin’s lost his head for her. She’s taken all of his classes, asked him to be her dissertation director. And now he’s told me he’s suggesting the university choose her as a research assistant.’

‘Am I supposed to stand up and slap both hands over my mouth because this is the first time I’ve ever heard of such a thing?’ Brunetti asked. Then, thinking of the ruin he had seen older men make of their lives because of younger women, he lost the impulse to make light of what Paola said, changed register, and asked, ‘And your mail?’

‘I’m writing to him informally, not as a member of the committee that handles these appointments, and telling him that it is unlikely Signorina Orlando will meet the requirements the department has established.’

‘Which are?’ Brunetti asked, wiggling his toes as a display of interest.

Extraordinary performance in class,’ Paola said, holding up her thumb. She shot out her index finger and added, ‘The support and approval of her previous professors.’ Her middle finger jumped out to illustrate the last requirement. ‘And at least two articles published in journals of high regard in the student’s field of specialization.’

‘Which is?’ Brunetti asked.

After a moment’s hesitation, Paola answered, ‘The Silver Fork School.’

This distracted him from his toes sufficiently to enquire, ‘The what?’

‘Silver Fork School,’ she said, adding, ‘I think I’ve explained this to you before.’

Brunetti gave her a blank look, then confessed, ‘I don’t remember.’ After a pause that he hoped – in vain – Paola would fill, he asked, ‘What is it?’

‘English novels in the nineteenth century packed full of long accounts of what was the right, or the wrong, way to behave in social situations.’ When he said nothing in response, she added, ‘They were very popular.’

You’ve read them?’ he asked, never quite sure what she’d been up to at Oxford during those years she’d studied there.


Do you remember the title?’ he asked. Paola remembered everything.

She closed her eyes and summoned up memory. Her eyes opened and she said, ‘Contarini Fleming.’

Brunetti sat silently until he could bring himself to say, ‘Tell me.’

It’s rather complicated,’ she replied. ‘The hero’s mother dies in childbirth, he grows up in Scandinavia, falls in love with a married woman, who rejects him. In despair, he goes to Venice, where he falls in love with his cousin. Who does not reject him, and then she too dies in childbirth.’ She stopped there and looked off into the middle distance, a look Brunetti called her ‘gestation face’, one she wore while formulating a theory.

As if posing a rhetorical question with which to begin a class discussion, she asked, ‘Isn’t it interesting, the way women in Victorian novels so often died either in childbirth or from tuberculosis?’

Reluctant to be forced to answer her question, Brunetti asked, ‘And this was a popular book?’

‘Yes. Very.’

‘And the author? What became of him?’ Brunetti asked, sure he would have come to a bad end from having read this stuff as well as written it.

He became prime minister of England,’ Paola answered.

There ensued a silence of not inconsiderable length, ended by Brunetti’s question, ‘If I might return to our original subject, how old is Signorina Orlando?’ He estimated Severin to be in his late fifties.

‘Twenty-one or -two, I’d guess.’

‘Oh my, oh my, oh my,’ Brunetti said. ‘Trouble on the horizon.’ Then he added, trying to please Paola with his use of one of her English phrases, ‘Tears before bedtime.’

‘I suspect bedtime has come and gone, my dear,’ she said and bent her head over the screen.

Not in the least deterred by her sarcasm, Brunetti returned to their original subject and asked, ‘What are you telling him?’

‘I’m sending him a copy of her record and the comments made by her various professors.’

‘Is that permitted?’

She looked up, startled. ‘Of course. They’re part of the official documentation that accompanies a student from year to year.’

‘And professors openly write what they think about students?’ Brunetti asked, suddenly realizing how beautiful was the idea of academic freedom. Ah, if only . . .

‘Of course not,’ Paola answered, then stopped abruptly and took her hands away from the keyboard. ‘That is, they write in code, and everyone understands the code.’

Ah,’ Brunetti sighed, pleased to learn that academics were just like the police when asked to evaluate their colleagues: writing everything with an eye on the possible repercussions of saying anything negative or critical. ‘Filled with enthusiasm’ for ‘rash’; ‘admired for his seriousness’ for ‘tedious’; ‘interested in her colleagues’ opinions’ for ‘incapable of making a decision’; ‘displays great intuitive understanding’ for ‘appears unfamiliar with the penal code’.

Brunetti smiled and nodded, now freed from the illusion that somewhere there existed a work situation in which people’s performances were rated dispassionately and honestly.

He stopped moving his toes and said, ‘What I don’t understand is why you’re bothering to write to him at all.’

I’ve told you before, Guido: he was good to me when I started teaching.’ She turned to glance at him but immediately looked back at the screen, almost as though she were embarrassed by what she’d just said.

Brunetti, who recalled this now, did no more than nod. He never knew if Paola’s sense of unending indebtedness to anyone who had ever been kind to her was a virtue or a weakness. Nor, in fact, could he remember why he thought it a weakness.

‘So what are you telling him?’

Eyes on the screen, she answered, ‘That it might be wise to take a look at the exact requirements for the position that the university has put online and ask himself if Signorina Orlando meets all of them.’

‘That seems modest enough,’ Brunetti said.

‘It is,’ Paola agreed, then added, ‘I mention in particular the requirement for two publications in well-regarded journals.’

Brunetti was a brave man, a curious man, and so he asked, ‘What publications are well regarded?’

Paola closed her eyes and consulted her memory, opened them, and said, ‘There’s Victorian Literature and Culture and Journal of Victorian Culture.’ Seeing that her husband registered these titles with no surprise, she added, ‘And, of course, there are many more.’

‘They sound like those magazines strange, pale people try to sell you in the street.’

‘We’re in Venice, Guido,’ she said and returned to her computer.

Accepting defeat, Brunetti got up and went to the kitchen to see if there was anything to nibble on to sustain him until dinner time.


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Give unto Others

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Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN0802159400, 978-0802159403
Posted onMarch 15, 2022
Page Count295 pages
AuthorDonna Leon

Give unto Others By Donna Leon PDF Free Download - HUB PDF

Exploring the wobbly line between the criminal and non-criminal, revealing previously untold elements of Brunetti’s past, Give unto Others shows that the price of reciprocity can be ste


Author: Donna Leon

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