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By Its Cover (Guido Brunetti Series #23)

By Its Cover (Guido Brunetti Series #23)

3.5 14
by Donna Leon

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“Few detective writers create so vivid, inclusive and convincing a narrative as Donna Leon . . . . One of the most exquisite and subtle detective series ever.” —The Washington Post

Donna Leon’s critically acclaimed, internationally bestselling Commissario Guido Brunetti series has attracted readers the world over with the


“Few detective writers create so vivid, inclusive and convincing a narrative as Donna Leon . . . . One of the most exquisite and subtle detective series ever.” —The Washington Post

Donna Leon’s critically acclaimed, internationally bestselling Commissario Guido Brunetti series has attracted readers the world over with the beauty of its setting, the humanity of its characters, and its fearlessness in exploring politics, morality, and contemporary Italian culture. In the pages of Leon’s novels, the beloved conversations of the Brunetti family have drawn on topics of art and literature, but books are at the heart of this novel in a way they never have been before.

One afternoon, Commissario Guido 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, an American professor from a Kansas university. The only problem—the man fled the library earlier that day, and after checking his credentials, the American professor doesn’t exist.

As the investigation proceeds, the suspects multiply. And when a seemingly harmless theologian, who had spent three years at the library reading the Fathers of the Church, turns up brutally murdered, Brunetti must question his expectations about what makes a man innocent, or guilty.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In bestseller Leon’s elegant 23rd Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery (after 2013’s The Golden Egg), a Venetian library director reports that several valuable old books have been either stolen or damaged. The likely thief and vandal masqueraded as an American professor, but he has vanished, and his credentials prove false. With few leads, Brunetti turns to a potential witness—a library patron and former priest dubbed Tertullian (after the early Christian author) by the staff because he spends his days reading the church fathers’ works. Before the police can interview him, the seemingly innocuous Tertullian is brutally murdered—and Brunetti discovers some of the stolen volumes in his home. This character-driven novel looks at the ravages of rare book theft on libraries, and, more broadly, the destructive effects of contemporary greed—exemplified by cruise ships damaging Venice’s fragile waterways—on cultural heritage. Leon’s skillful evocation of the city’s charms, culture, and history more than compensates for an abrupt ending that might leave some readers unsatisfied. (Apr.)
Library Journal
In the 23rd outing for Commissario Guido Brunetti (The Golden Egg), the Venetian policeman is called to a library to investigate the thefts of several rare historical books and maps. Brunetti gets a crash course in the politics of wealthy donors, fragile institutional reputations, and the international black market in stolen literary works and prints. The investigation takes a turn for the worse when one of the library researchers is found beaten to death. Brunetti smoothly moves through the investigation, humoring his bosses and finessing witnesses, while maintaining his integrity. VERDICT Series fans will delight in the usual snippets of daily life in a historic city, brief asides about the universality of corruption and humanity's venality, and several mouthwatering meals. In addition to series fans, it will appeal to readers looking for a well-plotted story matched with just enough details of life in one of the world's most beautiful locations. [See Prepub Alert, 9/1/13; library marketing.]—Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green
Kirkus Reviews
A rare-book thief is the target in Commissario Guido Brunetti's 23rd case. Since Venice's Biblioteca Merula is open to anyone who can provide the proper credentials, it's been the obvious place for Joseph Nickerson, professor of European history at the University of Kansas, to do his research. But when Nickerson suddenly vanishes after three weeks of daily visits, his credentials turn out to be anything but proper. Nor is he the only thing that's vanished. Several of the rare books he consulted have gone missing, and pages and illustrative plates have been removed from many others. Dottoressa Patrizia Fabbiani, director of the Merula, can't imagine how such a thing could have happened under the watchful eyes of library guard Piero Sartor. Even more puzzling is the silence of Aldo Franchini, a regular visitor for three years whom the library staff has dubbed "Tertullian" for his preferred reading about the church fathers. Franchini sat close to Nickerson every day; he can't have failed to see him remove pages from the precious volumes. Why didn't he say anything, and what can Brunetti do about it? If you think book theft is no big deal, you're in good company; neither does Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta, Brunetti's invincibly dim superior. Only the offense the thefts may give Contessa Elisabetta Morosini-Albani, the wealthy widow whose donations have financed many of the library's acquisitions, rouses Patta, not to action, but at least to acquiescence in Brunetti's investigation, which inevitably leads to revelations of blackmail and murder. Brunetti (The Golden Egg, 2013, etc.) spends less time with both his charming family and his highly variable colleagues than usual; and with the exception of Franchini, the characters remain distantly evoked rather than vividly present. This one really is for readers who love books.
From the Publisher

A Seattle Times Best Mystery and Crime Novel of 2014

“Fans will rejoice that staples of the Brunetti canon—including conversations with his smart wife and frequent breaks for food and coffee—are very much in evidence.”—Seattle Times

“With its loudly reverberating echoes of the recent real-life thefts from the Girolamini Library in Naples, By its Cover will both delight and strike fear into bibliophiles’ hearts. . . . Leon offers a finely drawn tale that encompasses theft, blackmail, emotional violence, and murder, as well as a rich array of characters . . . [and] compellingly combines their workaday crime-solving with a detailed picture of a vanishing Venice.”—Boston Globe

“Donna Leon’s books . . . are routinely some of the finest mystery novels to come out of Europe (or anywhere else, for that matter). Her latest, By its Cover, will do nothing but burnish that reputation.”—BookPage

“One of her best in a long line of super efforts. . . . Brunetti’s wry internal observations and musings about everything from his superiors to his family are reason enough to come to the feast.”—Bookreporter

“Think of Leon’s latest Guido Brunetti novel as a love letter to her fans. . . . This will likely be one of his most-loved adventures.”—Bill Ott, Booklist (starred review)

“This character-driven novel looks at the ravages of rare book theft on libraries, and, more broadly, the destructive effects of contemporary greed . . . on cultural heritage. [A] skillful evocation of the city’s charms, culture, and history.”—Publishers Weekly

“Brunetti and Venice and books—there’s a totally delectable combination! . . . Truly a must-read for Brunetti fans.”—I Love a Mystery

“Donna Leon is one of the more unusual and satisfying writers of crime fiction in the current pantheon. . . . Brunetti is exceptional among detectives. . . . . Not since Simenon’s Maigret have we seen a detective so devoted to the reality and complexity of everyday life.”—Sydney Morning Herald

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
Guido Brunetti Series , #23
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Donna Leon is the author of the internationally bestselling Commissario Guido Brunetti series. The winner of the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, among other awards, Leon was born in New Jersey and has lived in Venice for thirty years.

Brief Biography

Venice, Italy
Date of Birth:
February 28, 1942
Place of Birth:
Montclair, New Jersey
B.A., 1964; M.A. 1969; postgraduate work in English literature

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By its Cover 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a good story and a look at a different kind of criminal enterprise. While not one of her best, I enjoyed the absence of a sense of crusade against the author's pet biases. Not nearly so filled with twists and turns as The Golden Egg and it ended a bit abruptly, leaving me wanting a bit more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderfully atmospheric beautifully written as always it is a joy to read Donna Leon Brunetti is a memorable detective and Venice a fascinating locale but most importantly the story makes this book a page turner and the library and its staff truly come alive a book to be savored some sentences have to be read again they are so beautiful like this one about the books in the library: " He remembered loving the feel and heft of them, but chiefly he remembered that soft dry scent. The past's attempt to make itself real to him." Magnificent !!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too much about corruption and unpleasant people need a return to solving strsight crimes with family and more humor getting so depressing maybe he should take an overseas assignment or another interesting part of italy like in the simeon ones. So disappointed again may not read the next one.middle age author angst? Mom
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Disappointing. Have been a huge fan for many years. If this had been written by anyone else I would have put it down after 20 pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In an attempt to be sophisticated or clever, the VERY abrupt ending left me unsatisfied. It was like an unfinished stroke on canvas- was it deliberate or could the artist not find a better resolution.
Venice_lover More than 1 year ago
For years I have waited for Donna Leon's books, often reading them in one gulp. But in recent years, she seems more interested in making money than in telling great stories. I visit Venice almost every year, so I know the atmospherics are correct. The latest books have almost no plot. If this book had been produced in regular size type, it would be about half as long. She starts out with a glance to the serious damage that massive cruise ships are doing to the lagoon and the city, but then goes off into book theft, which doesn't have a lot of twists and turns or even interesting characters. I grieve the loss of a fine storyteller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brunetti at home is always interesting, and it's often the best material in the story. Brunetti is growing older gracefully and he brings wisdom as well as knowledge not only to his work, but to his family life. Nice "beach read".
mjcNYC More than 1 year ago
Donna Leon's books are a satisfying pleasure to read, not just for the mystery but the writing itself, rich in Venetian atmosphere and characters, with glimpses of domestic life. The Brunetti family loves books and here, books are a major key.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this series. Donna Leon as usual brings back Guido Brunetti for our enjoyment. If you love Italian food and Venice, read this series but start with the first book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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