2 March 2015

Review: BY ITS COVER, Donna Leon

  • first published by William Heinnemann 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-434-02303-5
  • 237 pages
  • #23 in the Guido Brunetti series
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

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.

My Take

One of the things I enjoy about the Guido Brunetti novels is the way that they introduce issues that are of concern to the citizens of Venice as well as the focus on the crime being investigated.

Only a few pages into BY ITS COVER Brunetti is in a police boat on its way to a library where a theft has been discovered. Turning into the Grand Canal, there ahead of them is a huge cruise ship, perhaps eleven storeys high, with a wash that is causing waves to sweep over the landings and footpaths. This was an issue that hit the headlines in 2014 when cruise ships were first banned, and then when the ban was overturned by Venetian authorities because of the effects it would have on tourism.

Other issues raised: Brunetti's father in law is investing his considerable wealth in companies outside Italy; it seems that the theft of the pages from rare books is only the tip of the iceberg, and that the case that Brunetti is investigating is one of a systematic looting of Venetian treasures; Brunetti questions what is most valuable in these books - their text or the pictures that illustrate them - and why people collect them anyway.

This was an excellent read, certainly one of Donna Leon's best.

My rating: 4.7

I have also reviewed
ABOUT FACE
THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS
THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
4.4, A QUESTION OF BELIEF
4.5, BEASTLY THINGS
4.4, QUIETLY IN THEIR SLEEP
3.9, THE JEWELS OF PARADISE
4.8, DRAWING CONCLUSIONS
4.6, DEATH IN A STRANGE COUNTRY

Series
Guido Brunetti
1. Death At La Fenice (1992)
2. Death in a Strange Country (1993)
3. The Anonymous Venetian (1994)      aka Dressed for Death
4. A Venetian Reckoning (1995)      aka Death And Judgment
5. Acqua Alta (1996)      aka Death in High Water
6. The Death of Faith (1997)      aka Quietly in Their Sleep
7. A Noble Radiance (1997)
8. Fatal Remedies (1998)
9. Friends in High Places (1999)
10. A Sea of Troubles (2001)
11. Wilful Behaviour (2002)
12. Uniform Justice (2003)
13. Doctored Evidence (2004)
14. Blood from a Stone (2005)
15. Through a Glass Darkly (2006)
16. Suffer the Little Children (2007)
17. The Girl of His Dreams (2008)
18. About Face (2009)
19. A Question of Belief (2010)
20. Drawing Conclusions (2011)
21. Beastly Things (2012)
22. The Golden Egg (2013)
23. By Its Cover (2014)
24. Falling in Love (2015)

3 comments:

RTD said...

When you say, "one of Donna Leon's best," then I am convinced. Thank you for offering the persuasive review.

Margot Kinberg said...

I really like Leon's work, so definitely looking forward to this one!

noirencyclopedia said...

I've read a couple of Leon's novels and been less than convinced: in general I like my Italian crime novels to be written by Italians! But this one does sound to be uniquely interesting: I must give it a try.

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