Magazine article The Spectator

BOO K E N D S Too Much Time in the Library

Magazine article The Spectator

BOO K E N D S Too Much Time in the Library

Article excerpt

Donna Leon's The Jewels of Pa rad i se (Heinemann, £17.99) has a promising premise. A young musicologist, Caterina Pelligroni, returns to Venice to trace a legacy le f t by the 17th-centu ry compo ser Agostino Steffani, a slippery customer who mixed libretti with realpolitik in the courts of Europe.

The bequest turns out to consist mainly of nasty secrets, which seem strangely important to the attractive yet shady lawyer who has hired Caterina.

But despite having all the ingredients of a zippy historical mystery in an intriguing new genre, Jewels doe sn't qu ite del iver the good s . Cater ina spend s too much time in libraries, furtively eating energy bars, for the climax to have much more tension than an essay crisis.

Leon seam le s sly interweave s the Ita l ian cu ltu ra l her itage into her story, and hasn't lost her feeling for everyday l i fe . …

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