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By its Cover: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery Hardcover – April 1, 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 543 customer reviews
Book 23 of 24 in the Commissario Brunetti Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Think of Leon’s latest Guido Brunetti novel as a love letter to her fans, many of whom are librarians. The premise involves the theft and mutilation of rare books from a private research library, and much of the action takes place in the library itself, with Brunetti inhaling the aroma of aging parchment and fondly remembering his student days. Ah, but amid all this biblio-love, there is a real crime—not only the theft but also the murder of one of the library’s regular patrons. As usual, the focus rests with the people involved in and on the periphery of the case. Brunetti’s concern is always with individuals: how they come to do the things they do and what that says about them and about us. At one point, the police pathologist muses, “You know, Guido, at times I find it difficult to believe you do the work you do.” One might say the same of Leon: her books, despite employing the structure of traditional mysteries, are so very different from most crime novels, even those characterized as character-driven. For example, in one four-page scene in which Brunetti questions the brother of the victim, we see the unique sensibility Leon brings to the genre: sure she shows what a skilled interrogator her detective is, but between the lines, there is so much more: Brunetti’s remarkable sensitivity to other human beings, his ability not just to see what they are feeling but to share those feelings and to internalize their melancholy. Above all, Brunetti is a careful reader, of people, of places, of situations, and he never stops at surface meanings. That’s why we bookish types adore him the way we do, and why this will likely be one of his most-loved adventures. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Its a new Leon novel, and its set in a library. Must we go on? --Bill Ott

Review

A Seattle Times Best Mystery and Crime Novel of the Year

“With its loudly reverberating echoes of the recent real-life thefts from the Girolamini Library in Naples, By its Cover will both delight and strike fear into bibliophiles’ hearts. . . . Leon offers a finely drawn tale that encompasses theft, blackmail, emotional violence, and murder, as well as a rich array of characters . . . [and] compellingly combines their workaday crime-solving with a detailed picture of a vanishing Venice.”—Boston Globe

“Fans will rejoice that staples of the Brunetti canon—including conversations with his smart wife and frequent breaks for food and coffee—are very much in evidence.”—Seattle Times

“Donna Leon’s books . . . are routinely some of the finest mystery novels to come out of Europe (or anywhere else, for that matter). Her latest, By its Cover, will do nothing but burnish that reputation.”—BookPage

“One of her best in a long line of super efforts. . . . Brunetti’s wry internal observations and musings about everything from his superiors to his family are reason enough to come to the feast.”—Bookreporter

“Think of Leon’s latest Guido Brunetti novel as a love letter to her fans. . . . This will likely be one of his most-loved adventures.”—Booklist (starred review)

“This character-driven novel looks at the ravages of rare book theft on libraries, and, more broadly, the destructive effects of contemporary greed . . . on cultural heritage. [A] skillful evocation of the city’s charms, culture, and history.”—Publishers Weekly

“Brunetti and Venice and books—there’s a totally delectable combination! . . . Truly a must-read for Brunetti fans.”—I Love a Mystery

“Donna Leon is one of the more unusual and satisfying writers of crime fiction in the current pantheon. . . . Brunetti is exceptional among detectives. . . . . Not since Simenon’s Maigret have we seen a detective so devoted to the reality and complexity of everyday life.”—Sydney Morning Herald
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Product Details

  • Series: Commissario Guido Brunetti
  • Hardcover: 237 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st Printing edition (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802122647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802122643
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (543 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 17, 2014
Format: Paperback
There was a period a few years back when I stopped reading Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti mysteries. They seemed to be mysteries that were about everything except a mystery. Sure, I enjoy reading about different occupations, for instance, or social issues, but when reading a mystery, I still am there mainly for a good puzzle and a good story.

Fortunately, Leon seems to have developed a way of writing about the myriad of topics she is interested in, and still write puzzling mysteries with plenty of atmosphere for her old fans. By Its Cover begins right away with a promising crime, the theft of rare books from a Venice library. The pace is leisurely, lots of interviews and chasing down clues, and there's no murder until over halfway through the book. But that's appropriate for the setting, La Serenissima, the Most Serene Republic of Venice. No car chases here.

Though Brunetti seeks computer-wizard Signorina Elettra's help, she is unable to provide easy answers (as she has in past cases), so he has to rely on traditional police methods. This is much more satisfying in my opinion, since there are no magic answers pulled from the internet. Logic and evidence have to do the trick.

Meanwhile, Donna Leon is keeping up an impressive pace of writing lately. In addition to the annual Brunetti mystery, there was a collection of essays last December (My Venice), a non-Brunetti non-murder mystery (The Jewels of Paradise), and coming in April, a book about gondola building and gondola music (Gondola).

(Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for a review copy.)
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I feel that, with her last few books, Donna Leon has been phoning it in. The books are shorter, and the stories delve too much into arcane ways of life, way off the mainstream. All our characters are there, Vice Questore Patta, Lieutenant Scarpa, Signorina Electra, Brunetti's faithful assistant Vianello, but they are by now set in stone. No one ever evolves, the books have become too formulaic. I still read them, for Ms. Leon's lovely descriptions of Venice, and because I keep hoping she will regain her enthusiasm and give us a really exciting read. In this book, once the murder was committed, no one else was ever in danger so there was no suspense, no reason to turn the page. I love Commissario Guido Brunetti, but Donna Leon needs to work harder.
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As much as we have enjoyed Donna Leone's novels set in Venice and her characters, this one wandered around, seeming lost between the Grand Canal and St. Mark's Square. The story line is weak, not up to her own standard, and when the ending occurred I honestly thought my Kindle had jumped ahead, leaving out chapters of suspense and information, but no....that was the end. Much like the story, pages have been stolen....
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I enjoyed the book right until the last page, the story ended so abruptly, that I contacted Amazon to report a problem with my Kindle! The Kindle expert tried to help and finally resorted to buying the book on her own Kindle - and then read the last paragraph to me - and it was the same.....I felt like Donna Leon forgot to finish her story, she didn't tie up all the loose ends as she normally does!!
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Format: Kindle Edition
Donna Leon's love of books and literature has shone in her Inspector Brunetti mysteries, especially through the character of Brunetti's wife, Paola. In By Its Cover, books as objects are at the heart of the story's mystery.

Because this is a Brunetti story, in which differences matter, a distinction is made between books as art objects and the text contained on the pages of those objects. For rich collectors, the objects have more value. For the Brunettis, who live a book-strewn life in which volumes are left open and upside down, snuggled into cushions of furniture and perhaps even dog-eared, books are far more valuable for what they contain than for their appearance. And because this is a Brunetti story, perhaps this is a way to view people as well.

Brunetti is called to a Venetian scholarly library where old and revered volumes reside. Someone has been cutting out specific pages that are highly valued by collectors, while other rare and costly volumes are missing.

Suspicion immediately falls on a visiting American scholar, whose credentials soon prove to be false. Brunetti would like to speak with another man who spends many hours in the library -- a former priest who reads the works of older religious figures.

Adding to Brunetti's knowledge of this world are a library employee who helps retrieve books, the elegant library director and the woman whose generous donations form part of the damaged and stolen bounty. The benefactress is known to Paola's patrician parents, as is her wastrel stepson. But because she is not Venetian, she is not as valued by the small group that makes up the highest rung of Venetian society.

Donna Leon's compact story delves into the mystery of the underground market of rare books.
Read more ›
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NOT HER BEST EFFORT
Characters not well drawn or believable. Plot doesn't flow with reality. Ending too tidy and too sudden with not much of an explanation.
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