I'm a great fan of Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti mysteries and I'm reading my way through them slowly as I don't want to face the day when there are no more of them. So I was pleased when recently I was checking the library database to determine if there is a new Brunetti novel when I spotted The Jewels of Paradise, a stand-alone published in 2012.
Unlike the Brunetti books, this is not a mystery, at least not the kind where somebody is murdered and the hero has to figure out who did it. The Jewels of Paradise of the title are a treasure purported to have been left by a Baroque composer, Agostino Steffani to his cousins. The greedy descendents of those original cousins each wants the treasure for himself (if it exists.)
Caterina Pelligrini is a musicologist who is languishing in Manchester and longing for Italy, as who of us would not be in late winter in Manchester. She is hired by an obscure foundation in Venice to go through the documents in two trunks that have been warehoused for 300 years in order to discover which of the cousins is entitled to the treasure. If there is no treasure it is hoped there may be some previously unknown music that might be worth something.
So she works on the papers in the trunks, reads very old library books that tell the story of the Konigsberg Affair in which Steffani was involved, and appeals for help from her sister who is teaching in Germany - all to shed light on Steffani's life that might hint at which cousin is entitled to the treasure. She finds letters from him to the cousins of his day asking for help as he has no money at the end of his life. They apparently did not provide him with any so why did he leave his treasure to them?
Caterina slowly discovers some surprising facts about Steffani, who was involved in politics in Hanover and elsewhere in Germany. She also realizes that the job is not what she thought it would be and that the lawyer who hired her has a secret of his own.
I don't think it's a spoiler to tell you that she does find the Jewels of Paradise. And you won't believe what they are! The book has a perfect ending.