“By Its Cover” by Donna Leon

byitscoverIt’s the first time the widely-read detective writer, Donna Leon, has entered the tranquil world of rare books. By Its Cover turns out to be a surprisingly brutal account of what happened around these books.

Like all Leon’s books, this story takes place in Venice. Leon is an American who has lived in Venice for the past 30 years. The result is an intimate picture of this beautiful city, with its winding canals and nooks and crannies at every corner. The detective in all these books is Guido Brunetti, who lives with his wife and two children and loves the city as much as Leon does.

In this book he is called one morning by the woman director of the distinguished Merula Library. A professor from overseas who had been using the rare book room, disappeared at the precise moment it was discovered a considerable number of these books had had certain pages torn out, while a number had been stolen outright. The professor could not be traced to the country he claimed to live in. Brunetti begins his hunt. The book has a surprise ending, needless to say. Meanwhile, the reader has had a happy time sharing delicious meals and funny family situations with this popular detective – “the sophisticated but still moral Brunetti” – as the Wall Street Journal calls him.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall