Death at La Fenice

Published May 26, 2012 by myliteraryleanings

Review of Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon:

Overview from

Beautiful and serene Venice is a city almost devoid of crime. But that is little comfort to Maestro Helmut Wellauer, a world-renowned conductor whose intermission refreshment comes one night with a little something extra in it-cyanide. For Guido Brunetti, vice-commissario of police and detective genius, finding a suspect isn’t a problem; narrowing the large and unconventional group of enemies down to one is. As the suave and pithy Brunetti pieces together clues, a shocking picture of depravity and revenge emerges, leaving him torn between what is and what should be right — and questioning what the law can do, and what needs to be done.

Beautiful and serene Venice is a city almost devoid of crime. But that is little comfort to Maestro Helmut Wellauer, a world-renowned conductor who is poisoned one night during intermission. As Guido Brunetti, vice-commissario of police and a genius of detection, pieces together the clues, a shocking picture of depravity and revenge emerges.

My Review:

As I read this book, one thought kept popping up into my brain. It seems vaguely familiar, like I have read it before. I never came to a conclusion as to whether or not it was true but there was always that feeling at the back of my mind. However I did come to a conclusion about how I felt about the book in general. I liked it. I liked it quite a bit though I can’t say that I loved it, nevertheless I enjoyed reading it.

This is the first one in a series of books featuring our hero, Guido Brunetti. Brunetti is a commissario of police in Venice, where our story takes place in the Teatro La Fenice.  When the famous German conductor is apparently murdered, Guido is called to the theater to investigate.

A cursory examination of the room reveals that the man probably died as a result of poison placed into the cup of coffee that he was drinking which had spilled all over his shirt. His position is supported by two doctors, one of them being the medical examiner, who also name the poison- cyanide.

Thus begins Guido’s investigation into the strange murder. As he proceeds, he discovers much to his chagrin, that there are many people in the conductor’s life who had both opportunity and motive to commit the crime. But who is the real killer?

I did not figure it out myself until the very end. Even then I had two or three theories in mind and the one that proved to be the solution was only one of them. I am not sure if that counts or not but I am rather proud of the fact that one of the theories that I came up with was right.

For me though, the most fascinating part of the book was what it revealed about Italian language and culture as well as life in Venice. I’ve never been to Venice, but I found the descriptions of the layouts of the city fascinating.

I also could relate to and appreciate the allusions to the Italian language and culture. For example when one of the suspects, who happens to be an American, is introduced, Guido is amazed by her excellent command of the Italian language as well as “the full horror” of the fact that the woman’s last name (Lynch) contains no vowels.

Brunetti is a fascinating character who strikes me as great choice for future novels therefore; I will try to seek out some more books in this series. I think that other readers too might find him interesting, and right now the e-book is only 99 cents on I had only one objection to this book and it is listed below. I think most lovers of mysteries and Italian culture will like this one, however.

Contains: a description of one of Brunetti’s sexual fantasies

Below is a trailer for a new movie of this book. Don’t ask me why it appears to be in German since I think the author writes in English and the story takes place in Italy. I still though it was interesting and might check it out.


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