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Death at La Fenice: A Commissario Brunetti Mystery [Kindle Edition]

Donna Leon
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (418 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Death at La Fenice is the first novel in Donna Leon’s internationally best-selling Commissario Guido Brunetti series. During intermission at the famed La Fenice opera house in Venice, a notoriously difficult conductor is poisoned, and suspects abound. Brunetti, a native Venetian, sets out to unravel the mystery behind the high-profile murder. To do so, he he calls on his knowledge of Venice, its culture, and its dirty politics. Revenge, corruption, and even Italian cuisine play a role. The novel that started it all, Death at La Fenice is an entrancing mystery, rich in atmosphere.

“Few detective writers create so vivid, inclusive and convincing a narrative as Donna Leon, the expatriate American with the Venetian heart. . . . One of the most exquisite and subtle detective series ever.” —The Washington Post

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A breathless beginning and an unexpected lack of reference to the lush setting mark this lively launch of a projected series of Venetian mysteries. When legendary German conductor Helmut Wellauer is found dead in his dressing room two acts into a performance of La Traviata , police commissario Guido Brunetti is called in. Among those who might have provided the cyanide poison that killed the maestro, immediate suspects include the vaunted conductor's coolly indifferent young wife and those many in the music industry who are offended by his homophobia. Methodically probing into the victim's past, Brunetti also uncovers Wellauer's Nazi sympathies and a lead to a trio of singing sisters from yesteryear--one now destitute, one dead and the other missing. Though burdened by a dictatorial superior and two lumpen subordinates, Brunetti gets help from his aristocratic wife and her well-connected parents. The narrative's best moments involve Brunetti's wry exchanges with his colleagues and the cunningly masked, obvious solution.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Cyanide poisoning during the second-act intermission of La Traviata leaves the eminent conductor Helmut Wellauer dead, survived by a constellation of suspects from prima Flavia Petrelli (whose lesbian liaison with a wealthy American archeologist, Brett Lynch, Wellauer was threatening to expose) to director Franco Santore (furious over Wellauer's refusal to honor a bargain to find a job for Santore's prot‚g‚)--and including of course Wellauer's suddenly wealthy, and much younger, widow Elizabeth. The investigating officer, Guido Brunetti, Vice-Commissario of the Venice Police, brings to his first case tact, persistence, and a useful sympathy with young women--which becomes suddenly pertinent when he unearths Wellauer's prewar involvement with a family of three star-crossed girls. Deftly plotted and smoothly written in the Ngaio Marsh cultural mode, but recommended even for readers who, like Brett Lynch, don't care for Verdi. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 931 KB
  • Print Length: 292 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0061043370
  • Publisher: Grove Press (April 20, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007SIV41G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,196 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
136 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leon debuts with outstanding thriller! May 4, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Venice is for lovers, or so they say. It is also the setting in this thriller, the first of a series by Donna Leon, titled "Death at La Fenice."
La Fenice is the name of Venice's famed opera house and in this novel, death is the event de jour, as a well-known German conductor Helmut Wellauer is found dead in his dressing room, shortly before he was to conduct "La Traviata." Of course, the show must go on. Of course, the police must be called.
And we are introduced to Guido Brunetti, vice-commissario of police in Venice. He's also a brilliant detective. With suspects galore, Brunetti finds the early going to be confusing and not all what the "facts" may seem.
In Brunetti, Donna Leon has created the quintessential police detective. He is a man whom we are proud to call an acquaintance as we follow his trail in all the Leon books. She describes him: "He was a surprisingly neat man: tie carefully knotted, hair shorter than was the fashion; even his ears lay close to his head, as if reluctant to call attention to themselves. His clothing marked him as Italian. The cadence of his speech announced that he was Venetian. His eyes were all policeman."
Leon, in addition to being a first rate novelist, has been an American English teacher aboard, and healthy international sales have made her vision of Venice well known. She seems to love the city, but with an attitude that shows her feet are on the ground. She lets Brunetti characterize the city: "And then he was at the water's edge, the bridge to his right. How typically Venetian it was, looking, from a distance, lofty and ethereal but revealing itself, upon closer reflection, to be firmly grounded in the mud of the city.
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What FUN the Brunetti mysteries are!! February 27, 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
While I waited for a flight in Venice, I wandered into the bookshop in the little airport there and picked up a handful of Donna Leon's mysteries. I was DELIGHTED! Leon is a University of Maryland professor seconded to a University in the Veneto and she has developed a sweet Venetian detective protagonist, Guido Brunetti. La Fenice (The Phoenix, in Italian) is the famous Venetian opera house and serves as the crime scene for Brunetti's first case. When a famous Austrian orchestra conductor, Helmut Wellauer, is discovered in his dressing room after the second act, dead of cyanide poisoning, Guido must find not only the killer but the motive of course. His search takes him into the sexually perverse past (distant AND recent) of the conductor but also finds him confronting any number of people who are likely suspects including most of the people he worked with and a number of family members. One of the most attractive things about Leon's detective is that he is an amiable, competent family man who is dealing with the quotidian: moody teenaged son, bouncy sure-footed pre-teen daughter, a headstrong and likable wife (an English professor) in addition to an INcompetent power-insecure supervisor who does little but obstruct Brunetti's efforts. The discovery of the murderer is so complicated and the final twist in the end so neatly and tidily closes the case that I was hooked and couldn't wait to read the next one. I have always loved murder mysteries (as one reviewer calls "procedural police mysteries"), and Leon's are among the finest.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waiting For Guido June 30, 2000
By Vince
Format:Mass Market Paperback
At the start of this story someone dies. Then nothing happens for 278 pages except for an endless series of interviews by police detective Guido Brunetti. We are waiting for Guido to deduce the true facts of the case. This is the kind of mystery that is either excellent or no good at all. It is the kind of mystery that people who don't like mysteries think all mysteries are like. This mystery is in the excellent category. If you love Venice, as I do. I lived for 3 years in Aviano north of Venice and fell instantly in love with Venice.
The hero of this book is Venice. Each page lives and breaths Venice. The smells, the sounds, the language, the fog, the people - it's all in the novel. The book took me back to Venice and I enjoyed every minute. Donna Leon is a fine writer. If she would develop an action hero like Sue Grafton or Judith Van Gieson, I think she would become a best selling author. As it is, she's like an absolutely perfect one-carat diamond: small but exceptional and highly valuable. If you love Venice, you'll enjoy this book even if you don't like mysteries.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Quiet Type of Mystery December 11, 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In her first mystery of the series featuring Brunetti, Ms. Leon returns to the more quiet, refined and thoughtful type of mystery. I actually somewhat figured out the ending with about 50 pages to go, but that didn't reduce my pleasure in the book one iota. This book is the antithesis of the all-action, slash and burn, high intensity thrillers typlified by Robert Crais and James Patterson. These other books have there good points, but it is important to note that Donna Leon's series is very different. In the Brunetti books one learns about, and enjoys, Venice and Italian culture. One really cares, for good or evil, about the characters in her book. They are developed slowly and with style. The only comparison I can think of for Donna Leon is the great French detective writer Simenon and Inspector Maigret.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
It was very good.
Published 1 day ago by Barbara
4.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written
Very well peopled and the descriptive language is outstanding. The mystery's solution was interesting but, in my opinion, a slightly weak spot in the overall plotting.
Published 1 day ago by Diane Garcia
4.0 out of 5 stars Venice is such an interesting and complex location and to ...
Venice is such an interesting and complex location and to get even more flavor of the community through the books that Donna Leon writes is an extra all day long.
Published 1 day ago by Victoria E. Acoba
5.0 out of 5 stars So good at skewering sacred cows ... Reminds one of Abbie Hoffman's...
Venetia ...the perfect place for murder...So good at skewering sacred cows ... Reminds one of Abbie Hoffman's remark, " Sacred cows make the best hamburgers."
Published 3 days ago by Paul Wurst
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
First time, will buy more.
Published 7 days ago by Anthony R Bartolini
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but ending not a surprise. Book was ...
Well written but ending not a surprise. Book was read by my book club and I admit I am not a murder mystery reader.
Published 8 days ago by Norma J Gardner
4.0 out of 5 stars A gentle introduction to Guido through a twisting and touching tale
Having read several later Commissario Brunetti books by Ms. Leon, when this first one of the series became available at a bargain price, I grabbed it. Read more
Published 8 days ago by paladin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it could not put it down. I always love stories that take place in Venice. SUPERB!
Published 9 days ago by Susan Igou
5.0 out of 5 stars Life of good crime-solving; Our Inspector and his locale are not a...
Long a Leon fan, I'm encouraging my wife to begin with the "starter" book. She points out that it begins slowly ... but is now enjoying the flow, and the characters.
Published 11 days ago by Douglas Marsh
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth, Justice, and the Guido Way
Donna Leon is an American author by birth and an Italian critic by avocation, having lived in Venice for three decades and having witnessed the artistic beauty but also the social... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Robert J. Mack
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More About the Author

A New Yorker of Irish/Spanish descent, Donna Leon first went to Italy in 1965, returning regularly over the next decade or so while pursuing a career as an academic in the States and then later in Iran, China and finally Saudi Arabia. Leon has received both the CWA Macallon Silver Dagger for Fiction and the German Corrine Prize for her novels featuring Commisario Guido Brunetti. She lives in Venice.


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