Donna Leon has won heaps of critical praise and legions of fans for her best-selling mystery series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, one of contemporary crime fiction’s most beloved characters. With The Jewels of Paradise, Leon takes listeners beyond the world of the Venetian Questura in her first stand-alone novel.
Caterina Pellegrini is a native Venetian, and like so many of them, she’s had to leave home to pursue her career elsewhere, mostly abroad. With a doctorate in baroque opera from Vienna, she lands in Birmingham, England, as a research fellow and assistant professor. Birmingham, however, is no Venice, so when she gets word of a position back home, Caterina jumps at the opportunity. The job is an unusual one. After nearly three centuries, two locked trunks, believed to contain the papers of a once-famous, now largely forgotten baroque composer, have been discovered. The composer was deeply connected in religious and political circles, but he died childless, and now two Venetian men, descendants of his cousins, each claim inheritance. With rumors of a treasure, they aren’t about to share the possible fortune.
Caterina has been hired to attend the opening of the trunks and examine any enclosed papers to discover the “testamentary disposition” of the composer. But when her research takes her in unexpected directions and a silent man follows her through the streets, she begins to wonder just what secrets these trunks may hold.
©2012 Donna Leon and Diogenes Verlag AG (P)2012 AudioGO
If you read Donna Leon for Brunetti and the delightful Signora Elettra you may not enjoy this book. It has a slow start but I enjoyed it and found the historical research fascinating.
Not my favorite Donna Leon story. The characters did not grab you and the story line seemed very contrived. I usually love her books but this one was not up to her other works.
Johan Deutch, Jr.
The untranslated Italian and unexplained references to places a sources mentioned is very distracting. The intrigues of the past were probably complete, but far too obscure to follow very closely, without further description and explanation, by someone steeped in Central European history and mores'
The involvement of the sister/nun is weak and not explored for potential richness by the author. If she had joined in by coming to Venice with her bags of doubt... We needed more intrigue in Venice. The son of the cousin episode was irrelevant because it meant nothing to the story.
Not Donna Leon's finest hour. We finished out of loyalty to the person that writes Brunetti.
I’m a big fan of Donna Leon so I had to try this book. First, I listened to an hour of the book. Then I went to other pursuits. Two months later, I tried again and made it all the way by stubborn perseverance. While well written and wonderfully narrated, the story is simply not very interesting. One follows the protagonist’s research about an 18th century composer/prelate of sorts, which I found I didn’t care about. The protagonist’s travails as the hired researcher to go through the papers of the composer are only mildly interesting. I’ll stick with Bruneti.
I like Brunetti series
I Hear Sirens in the Street
The food described is always good but Leon wrote this as a way of venting her dislike of the Catholic Church and her view of people who believe as fools to be pitied or liars
Just too much of Leon's own anti-Catholic rant
As a fan of Donna Leon's I feel that this was an indulgence on her part, that should have been killed by her editor. There is only enough material here for a short story, and it is expanded into a book by means of lots of extraneous details which ultimately go for nothing. There are hints of the way in which the story could have been expanded into a fully rounded story about a Venetian family, but it is all thrown away in a plodding, tedious tale of an academic reading through old papers in two trunks. The characters are not well developed. This is a story that goes nowhere. Don't buy it.
Donna Leon writes great mysteries, but in this book, she barely had a conflict to investigate, much less one that was engaging. So much time spent in meaningless descriptions of how someone cut the zucchini, stirred the sugar in her coffee, lifted the page evenly and carefully with two hands. I felt like I was reading the assignments from a Write Your First Novel class. And the narrator's beautiful Italianate English began to grate after a while, as if, since there was nothing to say, it was best to stretch out the words as long as possible, and repeat people's names over and over.
Of course I still look forward to the next Brunetti novel, but I hope Ms. Leon sticks with those in the future.
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