Suffer the Little Children

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When Commissario Brunetti is summoned in the middle of the night to the hospital bed of a pediatrician, he is confronted with more questions than answers. Three men--a young carabiniere captain and two privates from out of town--burst into the doctor's apartment while the family was sleeping, attacked him, and took away his eighteen-month-old boy. What could have motivated an assault by the forces of the state that was so violent it has left the doctor mute? As Brunetti delves into the case, he begins to uncover a story of ...

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Oct 21, 2016

Illegal Baby Adoptions in Italy

Donna Leon has such a talent for showing bureaucratic stupidity -- in all its many flavors. This story is about Italian illegal adoptions of children. The multiple plots in this book are rather complex to explain.

First, babies that are adopted through informal agreements between parents and adults hoping to adopt, do not have the kiss of approval from the government. When people are caught, the penalties can be much more serious than the new parents ever imagine.

Inspector Vianello, Brunetti's co-worker, investigates a new scam on the Italian medical system. Pharmacists and physicians have sweetheart deals in which doctors are paid for office visits that never take place. But one sanctimonious pharmacist goes further; he accesses medical files and leaks information to family members that have dire consequences for the person whose medical file has been hacked.

This book is one of Leon's most cynical. Everyone seems to be on the take. Government agencies make stupid decisions that can destroy families. The Carabinieri make midnight raids at the homes of parents with their new, illegally-gotten babies. I found this last atrocity reminded me of Stalin's reported midnight raids -- where those apprehended were never seen or heard from again. In this case, the new parents are given no opportunity to regularize their adoption; the children are taken and put into foster care. The new parents never get to see their children again.

One of Leon's best features is that she doesn't try to 'fix' everything at the end. Life is messy and she leaves it to the reader to decide what is right and wrong. This is such a unique story.

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