By Its Cover

9780434023035Tuesday, 8 April 2014

They say you can't, but with Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti series that landed on its feet almost fully formed running to twenty-three titles anyone who's been along for most of the ride can take a glance at the book and have a pretty fair idea of what they'll be getting.

The elements will, of course, vary from title to title. The amount of time Brunetti gets to spend at home and when he manages to get there will affect how much of his family the reader sees in each successive title. The actual case he's dealing with may or may not present opportunities for the wonderful and  highly efficient Signorina Elettra to do her computer-based thing. Brunetti's boss, the entirely loathsome Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta, will appear in his office just before lunch and depart not that long afterwards, and how far his nose sticks into Brunetti's case will depend on the case's effect on the issues that matter to him.

Apart from Signorina Elettra most of the cast have been in place since the  first title in a series that landed on its feet almost fully formed from the start of Death at La Fenice. You know, more or less, what you're going to get. It's just a question of detail and delivering an outcome.

This time around it's an afternoon phone call from the director of Biblioteca Merula, a prestigious library with an extensive holding of rare books. A number of titles have had pages cut out, maps and  illustrations rather than pages of text, and others have gone missing.

As far as library director Dottoressa Patrizia Fabbiani is concerned there's an obvious suspect. American academic Joseph Nickerson, from the University of Kansas, has been using the library for research into medieval Mediterranean maritime trade but has suddenly vanished after daily visits over a solid three week period. Books he has requested are gone, others are damaged. There's your man. Q.E.D.

He's definitely a suspect, particularly after his passport turns out to be a fake and a check with the University of Kansas reveals they have no one by that name on the payroll. 

But he's not the only regular visitor who passes under the gaze of library guard Piero Sartor.


© Ian Hughes 2012