Commissario Guido Brunetti gets a frantic call from Dottoressa Fabbiani, the chief librarian of the Biblioteca Merula. She has discovered that several rare books in the library have been defaced. At first, the vandalism appears to be limited to pages cut from some of the volumes. However, the extent of the damage grows as the investigation widens, and it appears that many rare books have also disappeared.
Brunetti initially thinks that this is a simple case of vandalism and theft. He believes the culprit to be Doctor Joseph Nickerson, an American professor doing research at the Biblioteca Merula. When Brunetti discovers that the researcherís credentials are false, he is sure that he has found the thief. Then another patron of the Merula turns up dead, and the entire focus of the investigation changes.
Aldo Franchini was a reclusive ex-priest who spent three years at the library reading the Fathers of the Church. When he is murdered in a grisly fashion, Brunetti fears that the Merula mystery has much more to it. Following a trail of stolen books, Brunetti discovers a murky underground world of book thieves, collectors and the shocking trafficking of rare books. Where will the trail lead him?
By Its Cover gives readers insight into the world of rare book theft. The theft at the Biblioteca Merula is only the tip of the iceberg. As the investigation expands, Brunetti discovers the surprising scope of this problem: five-hundred-year-old volumes have disappeared in many locations. The thoughtless vandalism of rare books is even more disturbing. The Merula thief simply sliced the pages he wanted from books, thereby destroying the value of each of the rare books that he targeted. Researchers will still be able to use these vandalized volumes, but they will never be worth the same amount.
Donna Leonís Commissario Brunetti series is a rare treat for readers. There is always a fascinating and intricate mystery to solve. Readers also become part of the everyday life of a Venetian family. Brunettiís wife, Paola, is a university professor and lover of art and literature, as well as being an accomplished cook, a supportive wife and loving mother. The conversations around the Brunetti kitchen table give readers amusing insights into Venetian cultural life and society.
Venice itself is an important element of each Brunetti novel. The characters complain about the massive cruise ships invading their harbor and the endless stream of tourists who fill their streets and shops, although the financial benefits of tourism are essential to the economy of Venice. Readers also learn about the shocking corruption and inefficiency that runs rampant throughout Venetian government. Brunetti may complain about all of this, but he never fails to take the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of that rare jewel that is Venice.
Leonís Brunetti novels portray a perceptive investigator and a warmhearted family man whose cases give the writer the opportunity to explore Venetian politics, history, culture, and morality. Leonís first novel, Death in La Fenice (1982) won the Suntory mystery fiction Grand Prize. She has also been named one of the Fifty Greatest Crime Writers by The London Times. Readers will be thrilled with her latest novel, By Its Cover, not only for its exploration of Venetian society, but also for its insightful look into the complex nature of good and evil.