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By its Cover: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery Paperback – March 10, 2015
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“Inspired by the real-life looting of the Girolamini Library in Naples, this book adds to Donna Leon’s best-selling Commissario Guido Brunetti series . . . Leon’s description of the setting is vivid. And she doesn’t shy away from politics, either, with her passion for preserving national institutions such as the library shining through.”―New York Times
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 canonincluding conversations with his smart wife and frequent breaks for food and coffeeare 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 booksthere’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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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.)
But somethin' went very wrong with this one. VERY thin story, and no backfill. In spots, it reads more like a travelogue for "Visit Venice" than a mystery novel. I swear when I was about to go to the next chapter, it was over - just like that!
Skip this puppy.
Every word Leon offers us leads to a deeper understanding of the tangled web of Italian politics and corruption. She jabs at the neglectful bureaucrats in charge of history and the environment. She prods the policia along a wobbly line of justice.