Death at La Fenice : (Brunetti 1), Paperback Book

Death at La Fenice : (Brunetti 1) Paperback

Part of the Brunetti series

4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


The twisted maze of Venice's canals has always been shrouded in mystery.

Even the celebrated opera house, La Fenice, has seen its share of death ... but none so horrific and violent as that of world-famous conductor, Maestro Helmut Wellauer, who was poisoned during a performance of La Traviata.

Even Commissario of Police, Guido Brunetti, used to the labyrinthine corruptions of the city, is shocked at the number of enemies Wellauer has made on his way to the top - but just how many have motive enough for murder?

The beauty of Venice is crumbling. But evil is one thing that will never erode with age.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Cornerstone
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9780099536567

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

A strong debut for Guido Brunetti which demonstrates that good detective fiction does not have to be an endless string of increasingly gruesome murders. Brunetti's character is already well formed and his meetings with Patta ara a joy to read.

Review by

I have always enjoyed crime series that evoke and explore a particular place.  To the long running, hard boiled 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain and the comically observed Roman world of Marcus Didius Falco from Lindsey Davies I can now add the Venetian investigations of Commissario Guidi Brunetti courtesy of Donna Leon.In all three of them it is the central characters and the meticulously described worlds, situated in both time and place, that tug our interest and intrigue as much as the crime.  In some respects the criminal investigation acts simply as a plotting scaffold for this leisurely unpicking of human nature and social milieu.I very much enjoyed this story.  It was a well crafted scenario that was gradually revealed.  Like Venice trapped in the winter missed morality seemed to wobble and fade as the back story to the opening death of conductor Helmut Wellauer, poisoned suddenly during a performance.  Even as I understood the likely whodunnit before Brunetti the final reveal was fascinatingly complex.  More a gradual almost imperceptible glimpse at human secrets rather than criminal mysteries.  The story is allowed to wander and breathe beyond the plot, much as the Venetian police approach their task devoting more time to food, coffee, wine and family than the work of working out who and why.  There is much more to see and say about Venice and her inhabitants to become too obsessed with mere procedure.Consequently reading this book was a pleasure like wandering along a beautiful pebble beach, stopping to pick up and marvel at pebbles that glisten like gems such was my enjoyment of the many well observed and well crafted scenes, moments and phrases along the way.  Leon has a way of prising open a character or emotion with small moments of elegantly, poetic prose. These invite your imagination in.  This was a book I carried everywhere with me looking forward to any moment I could pull it out  and luxuriate in its pages for a while. I enjoyed reading about the 87th Precinct and Falco's Rome seeing the characters and societies change and grow old over time whilst investigating each individual crime episode and I hope reading the rest of this series will prove as pleasurable.  Leon's tale also featured a delight in ridiculing the self important, empathy for those trapped in unenviable situations and sympathy for the tactics people use to get themselves through the day. The novel hovers in time around the late eighties and early nineties and it is curious how quaint a world it seems before the pervasive connectivity of internetworked computers and mobile phones.  The investigative techniques interviewing, walking, messages, gossip, slowly put together records would not be unfamiliar to investigators in Ancient Rome or 1950s American cities.  It will be interesting to see whether the series remains suspended in this time outside the sphere of instant information or gradually incorporates a changing world.

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