So Shall You Reap by Donna Leon – review

Published by Hutchinson Heinemann

Publication date – 9 March 2023

Source – review copy

On a cold November evening, Guido Brunetti and Paola are up late when a call from his colleague Ispettore Vianello arrives, alerting the Commissario that a hand has been seen in one of Venice’s canals. The body is soon found, and Brunetti is assigned to investigate the murder of an undocumented Sri Lankan immigrant. Because no official record of the man’s presence in Venice exists, Brunetti is forced to use the city’s far richer sources of information: gossip and the memories of people who knew the victim. Curiously, he had been living in a garden house on the grounds of a palazzo owned by a university professor, in which Brunetti discovers books revealing the victim’s interest in Buddhism, the revolutionary Tamil Tigers, and the last crop of Italian political terrorists, active in the 1980s.

As the investigation expands, Brunetti, Vianello, Commissario Griffoni, and Signorina Elettra each assemble pieces of a puzzle-random information about real estate and land use, books, university friendships-that appear to have little in common. Until Brunetti stumbles over something that transports him back to his own student days, causing him to reflect on lost ideals and the errors of youth, on Italian politics and history, and on the accidents that sometimes lead to revelation.

When Brunetti is called out on a cold evening to a report of a body in a canal he embarks on a journey into illegal immigration, political unrest and the invisibility of forgotten people.

It is always a joy for me to return to the calles and canals of Venice, to walk the piazzas and travel on the vaporetto with Brunetti. There is something comforting about a series such as this, where the reader has seen characters grow, friendships blossom and love continue to bloom. You feel very much as if you are curled up on the sofa drinking grappa with Brunetti and his wife Paola or popping into the the local café for a drink with the officers from the station.

Donna Leon’s novels often have a commentary on society and So Shall You Reap is no different. The victim in this instance is an undocumented man, someone without any means of legally making a living, who has to live away from his family and sends money back to them. He is invisible, living in his employer’s garden, no standing in society. It is perhaps for this reason that Brunetti feels all the more compelled to find the killer.

His investigation leads him back into the past, to volatile political movements and reminds him of his own crusades of his youth. It makes him reflect on how passionate people can be, caught up in a movement. The story also looks at how actions of our youth can have ramifications well into the future.

This book is much like the rest of the series, concerned more with human nature, the cruel and unthinking ways we can be with others and the world around us. The crimes, where committed are sometimes the inadvertent result or the intended outcome.

As always when I review a book in this series, I’d recommend going back to the beginning if you are new to Brunetti. Not because of any possibly spoilers, simply because you are missing out on a very special series of books.

A clever, compelling novel about episodes of the past echoing in the future.


You can buy a copy of the book here.

(This is an affiliate link so I may earn a small amount should you purchase through it. You can also buy So Shall You Reap from your local independent bookshop.)

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