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
While the Brunetti mystery's are slow paced, this stand alone was too slow for me to stay engaged. It is a book beautifully written, with Leon's elegant craftsmanship, but scholarly paced, which makes sense as an unravelling of a historical mystery to the protagonist scholar. While I do from time to time listen again to the Brunetti mystery's, I can't say that I will listen again nor recommend to mystery readers this novel. Those interested in historical fiction and the landscape of Venice will find it charming. Leon's subtle and dry sense of humor is present, which always makes me smile. Narrator, excellent.
I have followed Leon through the Brunetti series and--dare I say it--she and I seemed to be getting a bit tired of his problems. This new stand-alone, though, was a delight. There are all the same insider tidbits about Venetian life and the historical references woven into the story were superb. The reader Cassandra Campbell is clearly a fluent speaker of Italian and it showed; no halting pronunciations as have made me wince in other books. Leon is supremely understanding and forgiving about the foibles and obsessions of human beings and this wonderful quality is clearly evident in this academic puzzle focusing on Caterina and her sisters. Brava!
Although the pace was slow, the unfolding tale was engaging, character development was excellent, and the setting was well painted.
The fluent accent added a sense of reality to the cultural setting. The melodious tone of the narrator was hypnotic. Several times I found that I had to replay a portion because I had been too engrossed in the " music" to attend properly to the words.
Not typical of the mysteries/thrillers I usually read but all in all a nice change of pace. I enjoyed the book.
I really need to get to Venice! Love this audiobook and enjoyed the narrator too. Surprised how much I enjoyed it - a nice change from her Guido Brunetti series.
The story really drew me in--I enjoyed it enough to listen to it three times. It is different and I liked it.
I enjoyed this book, I was surprised when the story ended. I had developed empathy for the main character and was disappointed that she hadn't resolved glaring issues in her life.
This book is similar, love the glimpses into Venetian life. I enjoyed the main character. I admire the way Donna Leon gives you insight into the characters' motivation through their actions, more than through narration.
The narrator is very talented. What I find maddening about Donna Leon's audiobooks is the Italian accented English. Why can't they be narrated like Andrea Camilleri's books? We all know the story takes place in Italy. Does every word and thought of the characters have to have an Italian accent? I wanted to bang my head at times. It must be the author's choice to have them narrated this way.
no. Most of the action is cerebral. It would be a dull movie.
Grad Student studying acting with a passion for reading.
It's an easy listen and never seems to have slow part to muddle through. A touch of mystery combined with history which I always enjoy.
Campbell's performance is pleasant to listen to and consistent with her other readings.
The authors, true to form, twists and turns and delivers an ending as entertaining as it was unexpected. I generally like to guess the endings of stories and have to admit I didn't see it coming. In this way, she is true to form. It took a while to get to know and like - or dislike! - the characters, a burden not present in the Commissario Brunetti works, after the 1st couple, anyway. But now that I have, I'd like to see them, or some of them, again.
It's not a typical mystery, there are not heinous crimes to solve. But it is a mystery in that events of some centuries past come to dwell in the present in the form of two chests full of documents, and it's up to the main character, a scholar in the form and content of the documents, to figure out where the jewels are, and who owns them now after all that time.
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.
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