The Jewels of Paradise

The Jewels of Paradise

3.1 31
by Donna Leon
     
 

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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 readers beyond the world of the Venetian Questura in her first stand–alone novel. Caterina Pellegrini

Overview


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 readers 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. The Jewels of Paradise is a superb novel, a gripping tale of intrigue, music, history, and greed.

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 undeniable 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

The Jewels of Paradise... shares some features of the Brunetti mysteries—Venice’s mash-up of high and low culture, corrupt businessmen and Italian-style family squabbles. It also shares Leon’s elegant prose, with humorous, wonderfully detailed descriptions as seen through the eyes of her heroine.”—Jennifer Melick, Opera News

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781620644867
Publisher:
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
10/02/2012
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Donna Leon has lived in Venice for over twenty–five years and previously lived in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China, where she worked as a teacher. Her previous novels featuring Commissario Brunetti have all been highly acclaimed.

Brief Biography

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

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The Jewels of Paradise 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
For the first time, Donna Leon has written a standalone novel after so many successful and popular Commissario Brunetti mysteries. Apparently opera is the author’s other passion, and so a once famous 17th century Italian Baroque composer, Steffani, serves as the focal point of this novel, set in the familiar Venice that serves so well in the Brunetti series, but to this reviewer hardly adds to this story. When two trunks containing the composer’s last worldly goods arrive in Venice, two cousins claim them as inheritance, tracing their ancestry back to Steffani. They retain an attorney who draws up a contract and persuades them to retain a researcher to determine which of the two sides of the family Steffani may have favored. They agree with his recommendation of “winner take all,” and Caterina Pellegrini is lured from her position at the University of Manchester to study the contents of the trunks. Thus the novel progresses as Caterina studies documents and researches the historical background in the library, uncovering little about any supposed treasure in the trunks, but a lot of information on the composer’s life and, of course, the music. The detail is overwhelming. And the question is: Was this trip necessary when the time and effort could have been applied to another Brunetti mystery? It’s not that the writing is not of the same high quality of past Donna Leon novels. Nor that the plot is wanting. It’s just that “The Jewels of Paradise” is not as amusing or intriguing as we’ve become accustomed to in a work by this author. It is, however, an interesting effort. (It should perhaps be added that the next Brunetti novel, “The Golden Egg,” will be published in April, 2013.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Baroque music, some old chests, modern Venice, irresistable protagonist, mystery novel meets opera plot. The ending is satisfying except that the book is hard to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't avoid this simply because it's not about Brunetti. This is a delightful story, clever and well written, and strongly recommended. Maybe this will become another series.......?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lovingly written, this book is a Jewel! Once again Donna Leon brings to life the City and the people of Venice, evoking a sense of familiarity for readers of her previous work. Far from being 'slow' and 'too long', Ms Leon takes time to develop all of her major characters so as to give the reader some 'skin in the game'. I found myself caring greatly about the protagonist, an intellegent and independent young woman,who although aware of her limitations makes a career for herself that she loves. The resolution of the mystery is exquisitely ironic and in no sense did I see it coming! I recommend this book unreservedly.. Michael Hodges
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do not miss this book because Commissario Brunetti is absent from its pages. Ms.Leon captures Venice under different circumstances and introduces a baroque music scholar trying to unravel a centuries old mystery involving a lesser know Italian composer whose music, coincidentally, is beginning to capture the interests of noted performers such as the great Italian singer, Cecilia Bartolli. A tremendous amount of research went into writting this novel, and there is much to be learned about intrigues of the European aristocracy in the 18th century. Denversmile
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to drag myself through this book thinking that it would become more interesting.  The style was bland, the characters were dull, and the plot was nonexsistent.  It may have made a good short story.  The only resemblance to the Donna Leon who writes Brunetti stories is that it took place in Venice.  I hope there are no more stories with this character.
PurplePrincess1946 More than 1 year ago
Started off slow and failed to gain momentum. I was not interested in the main character, she was bland. Not much was happening througout the book. Venice was there, but not an important part of the book. I expected more from Leon.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The character of Caterina Pelligrini is as engaging and captivating as Brunetti. I hope that Ms Leon will continue to write about this character and her captivating family and delightful friends
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The least interesting of Donna Leon's novels. Very little action, much repetition, no surprises. She should stick with Inspector Brunetti mysteries.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Agree: Disappointment! Fortunately I borrowed the book from the library, so I'm not out $$... but compared to her Brunetti books, this one doesn't work.  Too long by half, too many unimportant details and historical names/relationships, and surprisingly the author doesn't make good use of the single element of suspense which surfaces once early on (to good reader effect) but disappears for the remainder of the book (except for a minor and insignificant reappearance).
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MexicoDan More than 1 year ago
I have read ALL of the Guido Brunetti books by Ms. Leon. This stand-alone "mystery" is pathetic by comparison.