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A library in Venice loses some valuable rare books and others in its collection are vandalised. Brunetti is assigned to the case even though he believes it would be better dealt with by a specialist unit. It soon becomes clear that one of the scholars who has been using the library on a regular basis is not who he seems to be and when one of the other readers is found murdered the stakes become higher than even Brunetti suspected.

I enjoyed this subtle and understated story which is far more in the vein of earlier Brunetti stories. While there are asides about environmental issues these do not dominate the story as recent episodes in this series have to done to their detriment, in my opinion.

Here are all the favourite series characters including Paola, Guido Brunetti’s forthright wife, his aristocratic in-laws and his police colleagues – Patta, Vianello and the inimitable Elettra with her mastery of all things computerised. Venice is, as ever, almost a character in the story providing an atmospheric background to theft and murder.
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on 28 April 2017
Have read many of these books set in Venice and it was nice to revisit, however it seemed incomplete just getting into the story and the feel of being back in Venice and it just ended sharply rather than tying up all the loose ends.
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on 5 May 2015
This is a seriously substandard Leon. It is half-hearted; the writer does not seem to be engaged with her subject. The novel has considerable padding: normally Leon's details are atmospheric or amusing; not this time round. This reader often felt: why is she telling me this?
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on 18 May 2017
A well-written book - recommend it to fans of the series!
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on 5 April 2015
A book week written and with much intrigue woven into the story.It was not easy to eliminate suspects and even the conclusion leaves one speculating on the fate of some characters
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on 27 April 2017
well written and clever plotting.as usual. An enjoyable read
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on 27 May 2016
Great read
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on 17 June 2017
Delivered when they said and as described. Thankyou
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on 16 June 2015
Have all of the Brunetti series by Donna Leon- like an old friend
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When the Chief Librarian of the Biblioteca Merula in Venice discovers that someone has been vandalising their collection of rare antiquarian books, Commissario Guido Brunetti is called in to investigate. At first it looks like an art theft - illustrated pages have been cut from the books and Brunetti soon learns that there is a market for these amongst unscrupulous but fanatical collectors. It seems obvious who the guilty party is - a man masquerading as an American academic, who has now disappeared. But as Brunetti tries to track him, the case takes an altogether darker turn when another regular user of the library is brutally murdered.

Although this is the 23rd in the series, it's the first of the Brunetti novels that I've read. I found it a thoughtful and rather leisurely read with the emphasis as much on describing the way of life in Venice as on the crime, and this came as a very pleasant change from so many of the current crime novels with their emphasis on violence, grittiness and action. Brunetti is something of an old-fashioned detective, an upright moral man (no drink problem, no maverick tendencies, happy family life - yay!) with a meditative mind. He is well aware of the corruption and class divides in his society, but seeks to get to the truth regardless of any political pressure that may be put on him. His relationship with his wife comes across as very authentic, while her more aristocratic background allows him access to the upper echelons of society in a way that wouldn't be possible for an 'ordinary' policeman.

The Venetian society Leon portrays seems to be stuck back in the days when birth was even more important than money and where forelocks are still expected to be tugged on a regular basis. Whether this is an accurate portrayal, I don't know, but I found it convincing. Leon also shows how corruption is preventing the city from taking the urgent action needed to preserve this unique place, and how the political system itself plays into the hands of those who care more for profit than for the city's long-term viability. Much of this story revolves around religious books, which means that Brunetti also does a fair amount of musing on the status of religion in the modern world.

I found all of these things intriguing and enjoyable and felt the sense of place in the book was exceptionally strong. In fact, I assumed wrongly that I was reading a translated work from a native of Venice, but subsequently discovered that Leon is American, although she has lived in Venice for a quarter of a century. Where the book fell down a little was on the investigation. In fact, there was very little real investigation as Brunetti meandered around Venice avoiding the obvious actions (like taking forever to contact the Arts Crimes specialists, for instance). And to be honest I didn't think the motivation for the murder was very well explained at all - that part left me totally unconvinced, while the odd abruptness of the ending left me turning back to see if I had missed something. However, that didn't take away from the pleasure I got from the quality of the writing and characterisation, while the descriptions of Venice and its society raised the book well above the average. I will certainly be reading more of this series, and thoroughly recommend the book despite its few weaknesses.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Grove Atlantic.
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