The Jewels of Paradise

The Jewels of Paradise

3.1 31
by Donna Leon
     
 

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Internationally praised for her Commissario Guido Brunetti series, Donna Leon’s first standalone novel features a widely different but equally compelling sleuth, Caterina Pellegrini. Caterina is a native Venetian, and like so many of them, she’s had to leave home to pursue her career. With a doctorate in baroque opera from Vienna, she lands in

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Overview

Internationally praised for her Commissario Guido Brunetti series, Donna Leon’s first standalone novel features a widely different but equally compelling sleuth, Caterina Pellegrini. Caterina is a native Venetian, and like so many of them, she’s had to leave home to pursue her career. With a doctorate in baroque opera from Vienna, she lands in Manchester, England. Manchester, however, is no Venice. When Caterina gets word of a position back home, she jumps at the opportunity.

The job is an unusual one. After nearly three centuries, two locked trunks, believed to contain the papers of Agostino Steffani, a baroque composer have been discovered. Deeply-connected in religious and political circles, the composer died childless; now two Venetians, descendants of his cousins, each claim inheritance. Caterina’s job is to examine any papers found in the trunks to discover Steffani’s “testamentary disposition” of the composer. But when her research takes her in unexpected directions she begins to wonder just what secrets these trunks may hold. From a masterful writer, The Jewels of Paradise is a superb novel, a gripping tale of intrigue, music, history and greed.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
…Leon's first stand-alone mystery, and, while it is undeniably strange to be wandering through Venice without the protection of Brunetti's solid presence, the young heroine of this novel is so winning that readers should find themselves forgiving the commissario his absence…The Jewels of Paradise is as much a tale about a young woman wising up and learning to fight more effectively for her own happiness as it is a mystery…Commissario Brunetti is allowed to take a vacation once in a while, but only if his replacements are as wry and erudite as Caterina.
—Maureen Corrigan
Publishers Weekly
Taking something of a gondolier’s holiday from her popular Commissario Guido Brunetti procedurals (Beastly Things, etc.), bestseller Leon debuts a stand-alone. Opera expert Caterina Pellegrini, who’s been teaching in Manchester, England, returns home to Venice to accept an unorthodox assignment: researching the contents of recently discovered trunks believed to have belonged to a once renowned baroque composer, Agostino Steffani, who was also a bishop and a diplomat, so that his avaricious descendants can divide the estate. A more compelling mystery for the musicologist, however, concerns what lessons Steffani’s life might offer as she wrestles with her own future. Despite the intriguing setup, Leon uncharacteristically fails to mine the premise for maximal emotion. There’s too much obscure historical detail relative to the development of Steffani’s character, lesser figures change arbitrarily to suit the plot’s convenience, and finally, out of the blue, there’s a slapdash deus ex machina ending. Consider this one a paradise lost. Agent: Diogenes Verlag AG. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“Fascinating. … her first stand-alone … boasts the same sensitivity to human behavior that distinguishes her Guido Brunetti series.”—Bill Ott, Booklist

“A veteran mystery maven weaves present-day Venice into a 300-year-old puzzle in this engaging stand-alone. … [The Jewels of Paradise] packs the charms of Venice into a smart whodunit.”—Kirkus Reviews

“While it is undeniably strange to be wandering through Venice without the protection of Brunetti’s solid presence, the young heroine of this novel is so winning that readers should find themselves forgiving the Commissario his absence. … The Jewels of Paradise is as much a tale about a young woman wising up and learning to fight more effectively for her own happiness as it is a mystery—though the centuries-old secrets that those chests contain are also pretty compelling. Commissario Brunetti is allowed to take a vacation once in a while, but only if his replacements are as wry and erudite as Caterina.”—Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post

Library Journal
Leon's first stand-alone novel, like her bestselling Commissario Brunetti mystery series (Beastly Things; Drawing Conclusions), is set in present-day Venice. Caterina Pellegrini, a researcher and music scholar, is finally offered a job in her native Venice after years of pursuing her career abroad. Hired by two "cousins" to settle their rival claims of ownership, Caterina is presented with two trunks that hold the papers of a 17th-century composer. She discovers not only unpublished scores but references to a hidden treasure. Aided by her large and well-connected family, Caterina investigates the composer and the cousins to discover the truth of the mysterious jewels. VERDICT Steeped in the language and music of the past, this novel lingers between the baroque era and the modern world, leading the reader on an informed ramble though Venice. Leon's fans will appreciate this change of pace, and new readers will be drawn to her uniquely Venetian characters. [See Prepub Alert, 5/15/12.]—Catherine Lantz, Morton Coll. Lib., Cicero, IL
Kirkus Reviews
A veteran mystery maven weaves present-day Venice into a 300-year-old puzzle in this engaging stand-alone. Caterina Pellegrini has much in common with author Leon (Beastly Things, 2012, etc.). Like Leon, Caterina is a scholar as well as a fan of Baroque opera. Unlike her creator, Caterina is a native-born Venetian who returns to her beloved city for an unusual temp job. Eager to get back to La Serenissima, she has accepted a commission from two venal cousins and their suave lawyer to examine the contents of two locked trunks. The trunks are believed to contain the papers of a long-dead composer. And while the cousins are hoping for rumored riches, "Jewels of Paradise," Caterina suspects that she will find the answers to a bigger mystery: whether the composer was involved in the 1694 disappearance of a German count. Along the way, she discovers the hidden story of the composer's tragic life and, perhaps, puts her own back on track. As in Leon's immensely popular Guido Brunetti series, mysteries featuring a Venetian police detective, the appeal of this book is as much in the setting as in the plot. When Caterina stops for a snack at the "ridiculously small bar that used to serve tiny pizzas topped with a single anchovy," we stop with her, and enjoy a Venetian "spritz" as well. And while this new amateur sleuth lacks Brunetti's warm family, she has her share of witty friends, such as the drunken Romanian who wonders how Fra Angelico's angels managed to don their robes over their wings. ("Velcro," she tells him.) While the plot can get a bit academic at times--mixing Catholic Church politics with music and legal terms--Leon knows when to draw back and enjoy a glass of wine. While lacking some of the warmth of the Brunetti series, Leon's stand-alone still packs the charms of Venice into a smart whodunit.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781410454324
Publisher:
Gale Cengage Learning
Publication date:
01/23/2013
Edition description:
Large Print
Pages:
407
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.90(d)

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