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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 (438 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: #8,921 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
137 of 138 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A wonderfully charming book with a very witty ending. Comes highly recommended
Published 2 days ago by R. Peter Bauer
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun for the opera/Venice lover
Perfect for an opera lover just back from Venice AND a performance of "Traviata" which figures heavily in the plot. Leon is great at creating the atmosphere of the place. Read more
Published 4 days ago by joan ellen cohen
4.0 out of 5 stars Always delightful writing from Donna Leon. I tend to ...
Always delightful writing from Donna Leon. I tend to always know the culprit when they appear but he/she is usually well hidden and I have to wait to see if I am right.
Published 4 days ago by phillip
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good
Published 11 days ago by Peggy
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising, sensitive, emotionally on target
Terrifically thoughtful book, rich and evocative not only of Venice but of the striated social milieus that this knowing decorative interacts.
Published 11 days ago by Susan Swartz
5.0 out of 5 stars Great mystery book
Very interesting. Lots of local color, it his not till the last third of the book that you start thinking of the culprit. Bravo ready for her next book
Published 13 days ago by Mr. Raul F. Alvaro
I read this book several years ago, and it is one of my favorite by Donna Leon. It introduced Inspector Brunetti, a police detective in Venice, Italy, and involved the death of an... Read more
Published 13 days ago by LOTRAA
5.0 out of 5 stars complex characters with wonderful dialogue. I have enjoyed this series...
Leon is a lovely writer. Her stories are full of wit, complex characters with wonderful dialogue. I have enjoyed this series and am on my second time through them!
Published 13 days ago by Lois Chanslor
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, as usual
I love all Donna Leone's work and have since my librarian recommended her writing to me many ywars ago'
Published 14 days ago by Harriet Barnett
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good summer mystery.
Published 14 days ago by Martha
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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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