Beautiful corruption…

… I have found it very interesting to read the latest Donna Leon mystery set in Venice, that beautiful, stinking, sinking, otherwordly city, after reading that Florida-set crime novel the other day.
The issues of political graft and corruption, of manoevering for advantage, of cover-ups and imperceptable illegalities are much the same, although without the day-glo colours and brashness found in Florida. It is odd how Leon’s Venetian society strikes you as just ‘very Italian’, because it is caught in ancient stones, peeling and faded grandeurs, and masking politenesses and sharp-edged smiles.

I did enjoy By Its Cover, the 23rd in the series that celebrates and observes with a ceratin lucidity the doings of the uxorious Commissario Brunetti and the often cloudy waters he lives in.
This one is sort of great because it is about ancient books going missing which allows Leon some space to consider books and their place in western culture.
When several valuable antiquarian books go missing from a prestigious library in the heart of Venice, Commissario Brunetti is immediately called to the scene. The staff suspect an American researcher has stolen them, but for Brunetti something doesn’t quite add up. Taking on the case, the Commissario begins to seek information about some of the library’s regulars, such as the ex-priest Franchini, a passionate reader of ancient Christian literature, and Contessa Morosini-Albani, the library’s chief donor, and comes to the conclusion that the thief could not have acted alone. However, when Franchini is found murdered in his home, the case takes a more sinister turn and soon Brunetti finds himself submerged in the dark secrets of the black market of antiquarian books. Alongside his ever-faithful team of Ispettore Vianello and Signorina Elettra, he delves into the pages of Franchini’s past and into the mind of a book thief in order to uncover the terrible truth.


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