Thursday, August 5, 2021

Book Review: Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti, #1)Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti #1). Donna Leon. Harper Perennial (1992). 270 pages. Genre:  Mystery.

First Line:  "The third gong, announcing that the opera was about to continue, sounded discreetly through the lobbies and bars of Teatro La Fenice."

Summary:  When Maestro Helmut Wellauer fails to return to his position in front of the orchestra for the second half of the opera, someone is sent to retrieve him from his dressing room.  Maestro Wellauer is found slumped in his easy chair.  Nearby on the floor is the coffee cup that he had been drinking out of.  It is apparent that he has been poisoned.  Commissario Guido Brunetti is assigned to the case.  In the absence of any evidence, he begins to question everyone who knew the man in order to get a better understanding of his life.  The more questions he asks, the darker and more complicated the picture becomes. 

My thoughts:  This series takes place in modern day Venice.  The author does an exceptional job of making you feel like you are there, walking the streets of Venice right alongside Brunetti.  

Commissario Brunetti is easy to like.  He seems to bring a sense of calm when he enters a room.  He is patient when interviewees don't seem to be answering his questions and is often rewarded when they begin to tell him things he never thought to ask.  The story is told from his perspective and we accompany him on his round of interviews.  We are often privy to his thoughts as well as he works through the information he is gathering. Each night he returns home to his cozy apartment to have dinner with his wife and children.  I loved this aspect of the story.  

The cast of secondary characters were interesting as most of them were involved in the opera world or the upper class world of Venice. 

The mystery kept me turning pages as I really didn't have any solid ideas as to whodunnit.  I loved discovering the clues along with Brunetti.  There were a couple of twists at the end that made for a satisfying read. 

Donna Leon has written one Brunetti book per year since she started, so I guess I better get busy reading the next book in the series. 


  1. Nice review! A couple, friends of mine, enjoy this series a lot, nit sure why I haven't tried it yet. I have seen at my library that a TV series has been made on some episodes

    1. I heard about the TV show, but have never seen it. I think I will wait until I read more!

  2. I read this book years ago, and I have to admit that Brunetti just didn't grab me; however, I got my hands on a copy of the book, and I'm going to give it another try. Something tells me that I just can't ignore Donna Leon!

    1. Sometimes the second time is the charm! I hope you enjoy it Cathy.