Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: By Its Cover by Donna Leon

One of the items on my life's bucket list is to visit Venice and follow one of Commissario Guido Brunetti's journeys from the Donna Leon series. I'm a huge fan of these stories, and Guido Brunetti is one of my favorite fictional detectives. So it really bothers me to have to give one of these books less than my full enthusiastic endorsement.

This one's due out next month. I wish I could shout "Go get in line right now to order it", but I'm beginning to tire of Leon's increasing tendency to phone them in. This one concerns the theft and/or destruction of ancient, priceless books and manuscripts, a subject that should be close to my heart. Brunetti's apparent ignorance of the subject and his skillful questioning of those involved so he can make himself smart is handled well and gives the reader at least a smattering of knowledge. But there's nothing deep to this one. Leon presumes we all know all the background of the cast, gives us very little motivation for anything or anybody, offers some flip remarks about the in depth, inbred crime rampant in modern day Venice, offers enchanting descriptions of Venetian scenery, throws in a few mentions of food (the hallmark of previous volumes), and comes to such an absolutely abrupt halt that I had to go and double-check to make sure my download of the e-galley hadn't been corrupted. Sorta like she ran out of steam and said "ok,,, I'm done now....I'm off to the opera."

Really disappointing. I guess it could be a stand alone, but I'm not sure if I started here if I'd ever want to read any others. The subject matter should have made it much more interesting than it did, and I miss the sharp repartèe so common to her characters in earlier books. Much as I hate to see Brunetti go, I may be more reluctant to read any more of these if she doesn't find the old spark again.

Title: By Its Cover
Author: Donna Leon
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (2014), Hardcover, 288 pages
Genre: Mystery - police procedural
Subject: murder, book theft
Setting: Venice
Series: Commissario Brunetti mysteries
Source: E-galley from publisher via Edelweiss
Why did I read this book now? I love the series and was offered a copy to review.


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