Two of our favourite writers of mystery novels have new books published this month – The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon and The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd.
This is just about the perfect time of year to visit Venice, I was thinking as I read Donna Leon’s most recent novel. Visiting Venice in the late winter months, or early spring months, may mean a few cool days but it also means being able to visit museums and churches without standing in line; you can walk into St. Mark’s to marvel at the mosaic floors at any time of day, climb the tower on Torcello for a view over the lagoon, and get a table in the inner dining room at Gato Nero on Burano. The next best thing to being there is to read Donna Leon’s books set in “the most serene republic of Venice”.
The investigation at the heart of The Temptation of Forgiveness begins with a mother’s concern about her son, and his possible drug use. Though Commissario Guido Brunetti is sympathetic, as the father of teenagers himself, he is uncertain that he can be of much help. He does however make some inquires about who may be selling drugs to students near the school Signora Crosera’s son attends.
In the meantime, late at night, a man is found injured near one of the many bridges in the city. It turns out that he is the husband of Signora Crosera and the father of her son. Taken to hospital, it is discovered that he is suffering a serious brain injury.
What was he doing out so late at night – without a coat, without a wallet? As Brunetti and his team investigate, they discover a scheme to defraud both innocent Venetians and the government. Corruption is so commonplace in Venice that it is hardly a surprise. The only challenge for Brunetti’s team is how to deal with their discovery when they find who it is behind the scheme.
The new Charles Todd, The Gate Keeper, takes place almost a century earlier, just after the end of the First World War. Inspector Ian Rutledge comes across a car stopped on a country road, late at night; and a dead man lying on the ground, shot only moments before.
This is only the first of more murders and it is a good long time before there is any clue to a connection, though Rutledge knows there must be one. The first man to be murdered is Stephen Wentworth, a local bookseller. And as Rutledge ruminates, “To put it simply, a bookseller sold books. He ordered them from the publishers and displayed them in a shop in order to attract buyers. Hardly a hotbed of criminal activity.” Indeed.
The second man to be murdered is a progressive farmer. As had so many, both of these men had been in the war. Otherwise, there appears to be no connection, except that one was a customer of the other. Rutledge is finding this a difficult case. Looking into the background of the bookseller, Rutledge discovers he experienced a disturbingly sad childhood, but hardly one that might lead to murder. Of course, by the end it all does come together and the case is solved in the last few pages with great drama. Another Charles Todd book that does not disappoint!