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Despite some suspense and a little sleuthing, Leon's first stand-alone novel is much more a character study than a conventional mystery. Taking a relatively obscure musical subject, baroque opera, as her foundation, Leon builds a remarkably subtle and involving story of greed, music, and human relationships. Opera scholar Caterina Pellegrini is happy to leave chilly England and return to her native Venice, even if her new position is a bit peculiar: she is to examine the papers contained in two recently discovered trunks belonging to a baroque composer. Rival cousins of the forgotten composer are hoping that the trunks' contents will help determine which one of them is entitled to the fattest share of whatever treasures are uncovered. As Caterina embarks on research into the composer's life, she finds herself caught up in a seventeenth-century drama: Did the composer commit murder to curtail a scandal? This slow-moving but wonderfully detailed book requires a willingness to dive into the world of baroque music and clerical in-fighting, but once the leap has been made, the tale proves surprisingly fascinating, much in the manner of David Hewson's fiction or Ross King's nonfiction. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Leon's many fans may initally find her first stand-alone slow going, but they will quickly discover that it boasts the same sensitivity to human behavior that distinguishes her Guido Brunetti series.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Leon's first stand-alone novel, like her bestselling Commissario Brunetti mystery series (Beastly Things; Drawing Conclusions), is set in present-day Venice. Caterina Pellegrini, a researcher and music scholar, is finally offered a job in her native Venice after years of pursuing her career abroad. Hired by two "cousins" to settle their rival claims of ownership, Caterina is presented with two trunks that hold the papers of a 17th-century composer. She discovers not only unpublished scores but references to a hidden treasure. Aided by her large and well-connected family, Caterina investigates the composer and the cousins to discover the truth of the mysterious jewels. VERDICT Steeped in the language and music of the past, this novel lingers between the baroque era and the modern world, leading the reader on an informed ramble though Venice. Leon's fans will appreciate this change of pace, and new readers will be drawn to her uniquely Venetian characters. [See Prepub Alert, 5/15/12.]-Catherine Lantz, Morton Coll. Lib., Cicero, IL (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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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. Agent: Diogenes Verlag AG. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.