I was disappointed by this novel. Having read and enjoyed all of Leon’s Brunetti novels, I had hoped that this would be a nice change. Sadly, it fails in several ways and offers little in compensation for its failures.
A musicologist originally from Venice is working as a researcher in Manchester when she hears about a temporary research job in Venice. She applies for the job and is accepted, and gladly abandons her job in England to return to her birthplace. Her task is to analyze the contents of 2 trunks containing papers and perhaps personal belongings of an 18th century priest and composer named Steffani. Two descendants of Steffani, two unsavory cousins living in Venice, are convinced that Steffani had treasure, and the cousins want it, and hope that the trunks contain a will that will entitle them to recover the treasure.
From this premise Leon attempts to write a novel with historical depth, suspense, and intrigue, with modern Venice as the setting, and to create a new character, the researcher, that will engage and interest us. But the only success she achieves in this novel is to convey her love of the beauty of Venice. The historical aspects of the novel seem shallow or truncated. The suspense and intrigue are not fully developed. The character seems rough-edged rather than complex and fully defined, as though Leon were unable to find the right ways to have the character act.
If you are a fan of the Brunetti series, nothing I say here will dissuade you from reading Jewels of Paradise - and, by all means, read it. But if you have never read any Donna Leon, please, please!, read the Brunetti novels before you read this.