By Its Cover: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery (Paperback)
This is the umpteenth book in a perennial series by the much-beloved Donna Leon. May there be umpteen more. Those who have read them all know what I mean.
One again, Guido Brunetti, who I’ve come to admire greatly over the years does battle with not just the forces of the criminal element, he also has to bob and weave around the marginally criminal factors at work in his own bureaucracy to get at the truth. Ms. Leon has never hesitated to point out the corrupt nature of Italian government and society, nor the venal and jealous nature of those at the heads of each. In this book she has pulled out all the stops. It is no wonder that she does not allow her books to be published in Italy, although she resides there and clearly loves the country and its people.
The strength of her work, though, is in character. The reader comes to respect Brunetti and his intelligent and quick-witted Ispettore Vianello, to despise the dim-witted Vice-Questore Patta, to be stunned by the frighteningly brilliant, well-connected and ruthless Signiorina Elettra, and harbor a fondness for Brunetti’s family; his erudite, educated aristocratic wife Paola and his children Raffi and Chiara. The richness of the exchanges between these principal players is consistent but always enlightening.
The twists and turns of crime, and even ordinary life in Venice are revealed in these pages. Far from being a travel guide urging one’s journey to the city, they perhaps illumine the reasons not to go. The foul water, the crumbling infrastructure, the corrupt city administration and the crush of tourists in any weather that is not favorable seems at first glance to be forbidding. But, they seem to say, if you can look beyond this to the persistent beauty and grandeur that mark Venice, you just might be able to stand it. One should not just read one of Leon’s books. One should read them all.
In the pages of Donna Leon's internationally bestselling Commissario Guido Brunetti mysteries, the conversations of the Brunetti family have often turned to topics of art and literature, but books are at the heart of this novel in a way they never have been before. One afternoon, 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, a visiting American professor. But the man fled the library earlier that day, and after checking his credentials, it becomes clear that he is not who he said he was. As the investigation proceeds, the suspects multiply. And when a seemingly harmless character turns up brutally murdered, Brunetti must question his expectations about what makes a man innocent, or guilty.