Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

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Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The first book in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series is very accomplished and a rewarding read. It's best read before the 24th book in the series as the later book doesn't give away the ending, but you'll know of one person who didn't kill the Maestro.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352/8h20m Date: July 1992
Publisher: Harper Collins
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0060168711

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Maestro Helmut Wellauer was conducting a performance of La Traviata at Venice's fabled opera house, La Fenice. After the second act he failed to return to the rostrum and his body was found in his dressing room. He'd been poisoned. There was no shortage of suspects - even Commissario Guido Brunetti was shocked at the number of enemies he'd made on his way to the top - but there's a difference between disliking the man and having sufficient motive for murder. To establish who had the motive is going to mean wading through a lot of the Maestro's history.

Recently I've been reading Donna Leon's back catalogue of Commissario Guido Brunetti stories and I'd come to the conclusion that it really didn't matter in which order you read the books. There's no overarching story to follow: Brunetti remains happily married with two teenage children from this book (published in 1992) through to the twenty-sixth story, published in 2017 and I'm sure he'll continue in that way in future books. But there's an exception here: you really should read this book before you read the twenty-fourth book in the series. I read Death at La Fenice in the knowledge that one person was not the murderer, and whilst it was still a very good read, just a little something was taken away from the experience.

But as police procedurals - and first books in series in particular - go, this is a very accomplished read. There isn't the full complement of characters at the Questura as yet: Patta is there but there's no Ispettore Vianello, Lieutenant Scarpa or Signorina Elletra and apart from Patta the other staff at the Questura are two dimensional: it's Brunetti and the city of Venice who carry this story. Even Brunetti's wife Paola hasn't yet grown into her full glory.

I'll confess to having read the book (or rather, listened to an audio download, but more of that later) more for completeness than because I expected a great deal from it (in much the same way that I read Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses), but I was more than pleasantly surprised. There's a good twisty plot and I didn't get anywhere near guessing the denouement, despite knowing that one of the suspects hadn't done the dirty deed. It was a particularly satisfying ending too.

I listened to an audio download (which I bought myself) narrated by Richard Morrant. He has a good range of male voices but I found some of the female voices irritating beyond belief, particularly the 'female in distress' ones. I think this is the only Brunetti which he's narrated and he doesn't come anywhere near the standard of my favourite, David Rintoul or even David Colacci.

If you do want to read the books in the correct order, you'll find a list here.

Buy Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon at Amazon You could get a free audio download of Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon with a 30-day Audible free trial at

Buy Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon at

Buy Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon at


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