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By Its Cover (Commissario Brunetti #23)

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  3,458 Ratings  ·  547 Reviews
Few detective writers create so vivid, inclusive and convincing a narrative as Donna Leon . . . . One of the most exquisite and subtle detective series ever.” —The Washington Post

Donna Leon’s critically acclaimed, internationally bestselling Commissario Guido Brunetti series has attracted readers the world over with the beauty of its setting, the humanity of its characters
Hardcover, 237 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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Feb 20, 2014 Tina rated it liked it
I like these books, but I'm beginning to tire of Leon's increasing tendency to phone them in. This one concerns the theft and/or destruction of ancient, priceless books and manuscripts, a subject that should be close to my heart. Brunetti's apparent ignorance of the subject and his skillful questioning of those involved so he can make himself smart is handled well and gives the reader at least a smattering of knowledge. But there's nothing deep to this one. Leon presumes we all know all the back ...more
Jeff Eastman
Jan 24, 2014 Jeff Eastman rated it it was ok
Perhaps I'm simply tiring of Donna Leon's formula, but I found this book to plod along in a too predictable fashion. It has all the expected things of a Commissario Brunetti mystery, including descriptions that make one see Venice through Brunetti's eyes. His interactions with his family and the too clever Signorina Elettra, along with his love of Venetian food and Italian history are just rehashes of things that have happened in every other book in the series. In short, there was simply nothing ...more
Andrew Smith
Apr 21, 2014 Andrew Smith rated it really liked it
It’s set in Venice. Much time is spent thinking about drinking coffee or actually drinking coffee. Much of the rest of the time is devoted the consumption of delicious meals. The crime? Well that’s all about books. It ticks most of my boxes – what’s not to like!

I look forward each April to the latest instalment of Donna Leon’s ruminations on the foibles and customs of this wonderful city, all dressed up as a detective novel. The crime always pays second fiddle to Venice and its people, and it’s
Apr 16, 2014 Larraine rated it it was amazing
If Italy is the capital of the slow food movement, then Donna Leon fits right in with her Brunetti series which takes place in Venice. Like her other books, this one opens slowly as the reader puts one piece of the puzzle in after another. There are so many delicious asides - such as nearly a whole page devoted to Brunetti's gray suit. Then there are the domestic scenes with his wife, Paola and their two children. The book takes place in the spring. This was, for me, very appropriate. As Brunett ...more
Mar 26, 2014 Caroline rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
I do love Guido Brunetti, but get increasingly tired of Leon’s inability to get background information conveyed by any means other than making him appear a simpleton with the need to ask his wife, his relatives, Signorina Elettra, and victims for information about Venice that any Venetian over the age of 5 would know. Apparently she has decided that dialogue beats exposition any day of the week, even if it’s ridiculous to think Brunetti doesn’t already know these things.

On the other hand, this h
May 25, 2014 Momkersch rated it it was ok
Shelves: mysteries-series
I love the Commissario Brunetti stories. I look forward to a new book the way children look forward to Christmas morning. My expectations for Donna Leon are high, so that's perhaps why I was disappointed here. The book feels flimsy in comparison to the others in the series. The characters are flat, the story less developed, and the ending, well, I won't give it away, but I was left dissatisfied. There were few references to food, and rather than drooling over her lush descriptions of Paola's coo ...more
Lynne Perednia
Apr 01, 2014 Lynne Perednia rated it really liked it
Donna Leon's love of books and literature has shone in her Inspector Brunetti mysteries, especially through the character of Brunetti's wife, Paola. In By Its Cover, books as objects are at the heart of the story's mystery.

Because this is a Brunetti story, in which differences matter, a distinction is made between books as art objects and the text contained on the pages of those objects. For rich collectors, the objects have more value. For the Brunettis, who live a book-strewn life in which vol
Nov 02, 2014 Barbara rated it liked it
The Biblioteca Merula in Venice has experienced a terrible desecration: a number of valuable old books have been stolen and others have had pages cut out. When Commissario Guido Brunetti investigates, Dottoressa Fabbiani - the chief librarian - tells him an American scholar, Dr. Joseph Nickerson, had been reading the cut up books. Brunetti also learns that another ardent reader, former priest Aldo Franchini, has been coming to the library for years to read 'Fathers of the Church'.

Before long Br
Mar 19, 2014 Debbi rated it really liked it
(Thank you NetGalley for the advance copy)

How can you NOT like a Donna Leon/Commissario Brunetti novel? They are great books, and like it's predecessors, By It's Cover does not disappoint.

The story takes us into the Biblioteca Merula, a prestigious Venetian library. Commissario Brunetti gets a call from the librarian that several books have been vandalized, pages cut out of them. The books are priceless historical books, and the library is devastated at what's happened. At first it seems like so
May 09, 2014 Xan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vivo en una ciudd pequeña arrasada periódicamente por los turistas. Sustituyo el agua de la laguna por el verde la hierba y ya puedo hacerme una idea de lo que es vivir en Venecia, aunque lejos del esplendor pasado de San Marcos. A Brunetti puedo imaginármelo como el vecino con el que coincido en el bar tomando un café a media mañana, comentando el periódico local con triste ironía. Por eso me gusta la serie de Donna Leon, porque sus personajes son reales: tienen un comportamiento natural y comp ...more
Aug 18, 2014 Tamsinwilloughby rated it really liked it
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. Thanks for providing me with a copy.

I read the Donna Leon books not for their plot, but for the look in the Commisario's family life and the atmosphere of Venice. This book provides both of that, plus a lovely setting. Enjoyable.
Apr 04, 2014 Marita rated it really liked it
As usual Donna Leon presents us with a subtle, understated mystery with an underlying theme of the insidious destruction of the Venetian heritage.
Dec 20, 2014 Clare rated it it was ok
The last Donna Leon I am going to waste my time reading. Very thin and without a lot of the usual colour. Think the time has come to retire the Commissario!
Mar 13, 2017 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Crime fans, Italian fans.
Reading a Guido Brunetti book by Dona Leon is like running into an old friend and realizing that the intervening time hasn't lessened your friendship.

This is very much a character driven story. The crimes, theft of rare books and a murder, are secondary to Brunetti's professional, family and social interactions. I felt the story dragged a little in spots but never enough to make the book less enjoyable.

In this case, some rare books and pages from others are stolen from a private library by wha
May 23, 2014 Dale rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, mystery, italy
Before talking about the novel itself, I want to mention the awful job done by the publisher. The typography in the US edition, published by Grove Atlantic, was among the worst I have ever seen. It looked like it was done by a not especially gifted high school student. The choice of font was pretty questionable, and the publisher seems not to know the difference between apostrophes and proper quotes: apostrophes are the only form of "quote" characters used anywhere in the book. This is ridiculou ...more
May 07, 2014 LJ rated it it was amazing
First Sentence: It had been a tedious Monday, much of it spent with the written witness statements about a fight between two taxi drivers that had sent one of them to the hospital with a concussion and a broken right arm.

Someone is stealing pages from some rare books as well as stealing whole books as well from a prestigious library in Venice. Their one possible witness is an ex-priest who has been coming to the library for years. It quickly becomes clear to Commissario Guido Brunetti that the m
Mar 07, 2014 Neil rated it really liked it
Commissario Brunetti of the Venice Questura, the best read detective in fiction (as long as you only count books written before, say, 500 AD) finally has a bibliomystery worthy of his talents. The Biblioteca Merula, a library in Venice home to a magnificent collection of rare and valuable books, has discovered that books are missing and many others have pages removed. This is based on real events in Italy, many of whose libraries have been systematically looted in recent years. This of course pr ...more
Jan 20, 2014 Diane rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, detective
The theft and destruction of books at the Girolamini Library in Naples forms the basis for Donna Leon's newest Commissario Brunetti's mystery, By its Cover. This sort of theft which appears to be recurring with some regularity could form the basis for a fascinating, complex tales with many layers and facets. Yet from its inception, this latest tale feels more like an episode of "Law & Order"'s "ripped from the headlines" procedural than a standalone mystery. In Venice, the Biblioteca Merula ...more
Biblio Files
Jan 31, 2014 Biblio Files rated it really liked it
There was a period a few years back when I stopped reading Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti mysteries. They seemed to be about everything except a mystery. Although I enjoy reading about different occupations, for instance, or social issues, when reading a mystery, I still am there mainly for a good puzzle and a good story.

Fortunately, Leon seems to have developed a way of writing about the myriad of topics she is interested in, and still write puzzling mysteries with plenty of atmosphere for
Apr 24, 2014 Marilyn rated it liked it
This Brunetti book was definitely not my favorite. It was bland compared to most of her other mysteries. All the action (non-action) centered around the theme (rare book theft) and rather ignored all the usual cast of characters. Not much happened. Brunetti, himself, was rather boring -- not particularly clever. It's as if Leon was only interested in the theme of the day instead of the colorful and clever people that usually weave their way into the life of an equally clever inspector. And, all ...more
Pamela Mclaren
May 29, 2016 Pamela Mclaren rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
Who would steal a rare book from a library? Or worse, remove the illustrations or maps in the book? That is the question Commissario Guido Brunetti faces when he takes a call from the Venetian library. Even before the extent of the loss is known, Brunetti is on the case, assuming that it is a single man: a supposed American university professor.

His one hope is a former priest who also frequently visits the library. Perhaps he saw something that can help the police track down the criminal. All to
Anne Slater
Apr 13, 2014 Anne Slater rated it it was amazing
I must admit that I'd read anything written by Donna Leon, but that said, I think By It's Cover is one of the best Guido Brunetti books.

If you happen to be a rare book librarian or just a lover of old books and if you care about the question of the text or the way it is conveyed, this is the Brunetti for you.

Which is NOT to say that it is didactic at all. There are a couple of lovely scenes with Brunetti and his Prof. of American Lit wife; scenes between Brunetti and various people who work at t
Apr 25, 2014 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
For a librarian on school holidays, with a penchant for crime fiction, a soft spot for Donna Leon and a fascination with Italy, what could be better than a Brunetti mystery set in a Venetian library? Perfect holiday fare. Is it her best book? No. Does it continue to give glimpse of life in Venice and a man happily married? Yes. Does it continue to show the foibles of human nature? Yes. Do we see all our old favourite characters? Yes. So it's a solid 3 stars.

It was refreshing, for once in a crime
May 22, 2014 Derek rated it did not like it
I'm stunned. Somewhere in the middle of this story (OK, perhaps more than half-way), Leon just suddenly abandoned it.

Not only did she not make any attempt to solve the original art-theft crime (which I can understand – that's not the sort of case that Commisario Guido Brunetti usually has to solve), but she wrapped up the murder case that developed from it by finding a possible murder weapon. Period. No motive, not even a confirmation that it really was the weapon.

I reserve one-star ratings
Marina Sofia
Feb 18, 2014 Marina Sofia rated it liked it
It is always a pleasure to return to Venice and the Brunetti family (in which I include the in-laws and Signorina Elettra) and the topic of this one is timely (following the theft of rare books from the library in Naples). Unusually, there is no dead body until about half-way through the book, so it's a more leisurely pace than we are used to even from other Donna Leon books. The ending was rather abrupt and left me somewhat dissatisfied. So perhaps not the strongest entrant in the series, but s ...more
Apr 02, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-myst
Many of Leon's books are sad, but this one even more so. The hopelessness of the killer, the corruption of Venice & Rome, the obsequiousness of Patta to his social superiors, the general stupidity of Gianni & other criminals. Maybe I should be grateful for the stupidity - it makes them more vulnerable to the police.

I do enjoy seeing the love for his wife Paola in Brunetti, and the affection of her parents for their daughter & him, and his respect for her intelligence.
Margaret Sankey
Jan 24, 2014 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
Another solid entry in the series, as Venetian detective Guido Brunetti wrangles with thieves slicing out pages at the Library Merula, a crime which escalates into blackmail, murder and the shady history of a secretive Venetian noble family.
Dec 23, 2016 Dany rated it liked it
Meh. I didn't dislike it, but I can't say I'm satisfied with this book. The characters were all too flat, Brunetti seemed unusually ignorant and slow and the ending was too simple.
Margaret Wichorek
Jan 28, 2017 Margaret Wichorek rated it really liked it
I'm finally up to date on my Donna Leon novels. This one is especially good-all about the theft and damage to a rare books in a well know book museum in Venice. It finally leads to a vicious murder, but Comm. Brunnetti is on the job and solves the case pretty quickly. This is such an enjoyable series-so atmospheric.
Mar 30, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it
Ah, I remember it well. Searching the dusty shelves of the library in the basement of the gothic building, amidst ancient tomes and tattered volumes, I stumbled across a 19th century edition of Gustave Doré’s Illustrations for Paradise Lost. Breathtaking, and I couldn’t believe that the library would loan such a treasure. But loan they did. I so wanted to keep it that I renewed it several times. Reluctantly I returned the book, but I’ve thought of it several times over the years, and each time ...more
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I have enjoyed your books for quite a few years 1 23 May 05, 2014 02:17PM  
  • The Raven's Eye (Brock & Kolla, #12)
  • The Devil's Cave (Bruno, Chief of Police, #5)
  • Murder in Pigalle (Aimee Leduc Investigations #14)
  • A Loyal Character Dancer (Inspector Chen Cao #2)
  • Rounding the Mark (Inspector Montalbano, #7)
  • La condanna del sangue: La primavera del commissario Ricciardi
  • Whispering Death (Inspector Challis, #6)
  • Cold Tuscan Stone (Rick Montoya Italian Mystery, #1)
  • Carnival For The Dead (Nic Costa, #10)
  • Ghost Medicine (Ella Clah, #17)
Donna Leon (born September 29, 1942, in Montclair, New Jersey) is an American author of a series of crime novels set in Venice and featuring the fictional hero Commissario Guido Brunetti.

Donna Leon has lived in Venice for over twenty-five years. She has worked as a lecturer in English Literature for the University of Maryland University College - Europe (UMUC-Europe) in Italy, then as a Professor
More about Donna Leon...

Other Books in the Series

Commissario Brunetti (1 - 10 of 26 books)
  • Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti, #1)
  • Death in a Strange Country (Commissario Brunetti, #2)
  • Dressed for Death (Commissario Brunetti, #3)
  • Death and Judgment (Commissario Brunetti, #4)
  • Acqua Alta (Commissario Brunetti, #5)
  • Quietly in Their Sleep (Commissario Brunetti, #6)
  • A Noble Radiance (Commissario Brunetti, #7)
  • Fatal Remedies (Commissario Brunetti, #8)
  • Friends in High Places (Commissario Brunetti, #9)
  • A Sea of Troubles (Commissario Brunetti, #10)

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“She became his Ariadne, leading him through the labyrinth of books, stopping now and then to pass another one to him.” 1 likes
“That’s probably because they said a lot of other things, as well.” 0 likes
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