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Leon, Donna - 'Suffer the Little Children'
Hardback: 272 pages (Apr. 2007) Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd ISBN: 043401625X

In Donna Leon's latest Commissario Brunetti novel armed men burst into the apartment of paediatrician Gustavo Pedrolli and his wife Bianca Marcolini. They batter Pedrolli to the ground, knocking him unconscious, and seize his 18 month old son Alfredo. Then Bianca sees the word on the back of their padded jackets "carabinieri".

Guido Brunetti is summoned to the hospital to see the injured Pedrolli and look into a possible prosecution of the violent carabinieri, and then he is informed that Pedrolli bought the baby boy from an Albanian immigrant.

Meanwhile Vianello, Brunetti's deputy, is investigating a clever computer scam on the health service, and yet another argument against computerised medical records. This apparently involves pharmacists making fictitious appointments for patients, and splitting the fees with the doctors. Then one of the pharmacies under suspicion, belonging to the pompously righteous Dottor Franchi, is broken into and thoroughly vandalised.

The enigmatic Signorina Elettra has the skills and contacts to help Vianello in his computer scam investigations, and also plays a key part along with Brunetti in tracking down the traffickers in human baby flesh.

This is a dark novel full of grim verisimilitude and not much humour. Perhaps this is why I did not enjoy it as much as some of her earlier books. But then you were not meant to enjoy this story of infertility, bigotry, delusion and all round misery. Even Guido Brunetti becomes depressed and introspective at the sheer inhumanity depicted in this story, and the lack of a good murder to investigate.

In Italian crime novels we frequently don't get a full resolution of the case, but we do usually see some kind of less than perfect justice. This story seems to lack resolution, structure and have too little of the amusing Brunetti-Patta relationship of earlier books.

I found this story a bit too bleak for my personal taste; although I am sure many people will find it a good book which certainly insists you think deeply about the world's problems.

Read another review of SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN.

Norman Price, England
January 2008

Norman blogs at Crime Scraps.

last updated 19/03/2011 14:33