The Jewels of Paradise, by Donna Leon (William Heinemann, RRP $37):
I haven’t read all of Donna Leon’s books but have managed to make my way through half a dozen of the series featuring Venetian police commissioner Guido Brunetti and have found them a little hit and miss: all were well-written but for me, the storylines ranged from gripping to dull.
This latest book is a standalone novel with all the mystery and intrigue of the best of the Brunetti novels. In fact, I’d put it at the top of the list of the best Leon books I’ve read so far.
Moving away from the standard murder-mystery fare of the other books, this one features Caterina Pellegrini, a young music researcher living in Venice who is hired to find the heir to what is believed to a treasure devised by a once-famous but now almost forgotten baroque composer.
During her research, Caterina delves into two chests full of papers and finds evidence of a scandalous affair and other dark secrets.
This is part mystery, part historical novel and very much a good read that is quite a nice change of pace.