From the bestselling author of the Brunetti crime series comes The Jewels of Paradise, a gripping tale of intrigue, music, history and greed and Donna Leon's first stand-alone novel.
Caterina Pellegrini is a young Venetian musicologist hired to find the rightful heir to an alleged treasure concealed by a once-famous, but now almost forgotten, baroque composer. Sworn to secrecy, Caterina can solve the mystery only by searching through the papers contained in two chests that have not been opened for centuries.
As she delves into all quarters of his life, she is drawn into one of the most scandalous affairs of the baroque era. What dark secrets do these chests hold, and just whom can she trust?
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.