BOOKS RICHARD read: BY ITS COVER, Donna Leon

By its Cover
Another Donna Leon book in her Inspector Brunetti

series.

If you been to Italy and visited Venice and if you like well-written, entertaining detective stories, Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti series is for you.

Donna Leon’s critically acclaimed, internationally bestselling Commissario Guido Brunetti series has attracted readers the world over with the beauty of its setting, the humanity of its characters, and its fearlessness in exploring politics, morality, and contemporary Italian culture. In the pages of Leon’s novels, the beloved conversations of the Brunetti family have drawn on topics of art and literature, but books are at the heart of this novel in a way they have never been before.

One afternoon, Commissario Guido Brunetti gets a frantic call from the director of a prestigious Venetian library. Someone has stolen pages out of several rare books. After a round of questioning, the case seems clear: the culprit must be the man who requested the volumes, an American professor from a Kansas university. The only problem—the man fled the library earlier that day, and after checking his credentials, the American professor doesn’t exist.

As the investigation proceeds, the suspects multiply. And when a seemingly harmless theologian, who had spent three years at the library reading the Fathers of the Church, turns up brutally murdered, Brunetti must question his expectations about what makes a man innocent or guilty.

Richard’s comments
Donna Leon has left Venice. The reasons for the exodus are not known but she no longer resides in the city in which she had lived for many decades. An American living in Venice, she had become as Venetian as a foreigner can become in the closed society of the city. She adopted the city, adapted to it and became a Venetian in all but birth certificate. Then, for some reason she left. The corruption? The annual flooding? The inundation of tourists? The burdensome tax laws? No one knows. But thankfully, her Brunetti series goes on.

Admittedly, “By it Cover” is not Leon’s best work. Her last two Brunetti novels have revealed a slow erosion of her past richness and opulence in detective story writing. It is as if she is responding to contractual obligations to a publisher, getting a book out quickly and fulfilling her publishing obligations.

Still, her latest novel wraps the reader in the comfort of the Brunetti family’s home, its repasts and its joys and sorrows in living in one of the world’s tourist treasures, Venice. Leon updates the reader about the city’s slow descent into total ruin, its corruption, its crime and its deterioration as a dynamic and viable metropolis. The richness of Venice is in decline and Leon records this in an entertaining and engaging way.

The final word
Any Brunetti series novel entertains and engages readers. “By its Cover” stays the course.

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