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Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti #1)
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Death at La Fenice (Commissario Brunetti #1)

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  11,943 Ratings  ·  1,253 Reviews
Death at La Fenice Beautiful and serene Venice is a city almost divoid 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. Full descrip ...more
Paperback, 263 pages
Published 1994 by Pan Books (first published 1992)
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Jennannej I agree with Tara. It's a fun, entertaining mystery, but most mysteries don't have enough for a really engaging discussion.
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Alex is The Romance Fox
Death at La Fenice is the 1st book in the exciting Guido Brunetti Series by Donna Leon, set in the beautiful, romantic, mysterious and unique city of Venice.
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The series features Commissario Guido Brunetti, family man, modest, moral, loyal and philosophical detective extraordinaire.
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When famed conductor Helmut Wellauer is found dead in his dressing room between Acts 2 and 3 of the of LA TRAVIATA at the La Fenicia theatre, Brunetti is assigned to investigate the murder by cyanide poisoning.
He immed
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Tea Jovanović
May 10, 2013 Tea Jovanović rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nažalost, naša publika nije dobro prihvatila ovu autorku i njen serijal knjiga pa je izdavač odustao od daljeg objavljivanja... Šteta... Donu Leon sam imala prilike da upoznam na jednom sajmu i da RTS-u obezbedim kratko "časkanje" s njom... I naravno, ne gubim nadu da će je neko opet objavljivati u Srbiji... Da ne poverujete, krimići, ubistva, i prelepa Venecija i publika to ne prihvata :)
Morgan
May 09, 2008 Morgan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by saying that I love Venice and all things Venetian. I love reading anything that has to do with Venice. So the fact that this book takes place in Venice gave it at least one redeeming quality. I've heard from more than one person that Donna Leon was a good author, but after reading this book, I have serious doubts about that and I'm not sure she deserves a second chance. She set up a great plot and had intruiging characters, but then did nothing with them. I got halfway through th ...more
Carolyn
I read this because it's set in Venice, a city I've only been to on a dull rainy day in winter, but one I enjoyed visiting very much. The damp only served to heighten the atmosphere and the lack of tourists gave us room to move and explore. The novel does have some nice descriptions of Venice and the Venetians but otherwise I found the writing a bit stilted and the story somewhat predictable.

Comissario Guido Brunetti is the detective in charge of investigating the death of a famous German condu
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Sue
May 18, 2012 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery lovers
Well, I've now entered the world of Commissario Guido Brunetti, of the police force of Venice. This is the first of Donna Leon's long-running series set in that fabled city, which is equally a character in the novel. This was an enjoyable beginning with a nice introduction to Brunetti's family, his investigation techniques, many fellow officers, and assorted Venetians of all stripes. His travels around the city give an interesting and occasionally claustrophobic feeling to the place.

I enjoyed th
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Jonetta
Nov 25, 2012 Jonetta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Commissario Guido Brunetti is called to Venice's La Fenice, the city's premiere opera house, when the infamous maestro Helmut Wallhauer is found dead in his dressing room after intermission. Brunetti must quickly solve this case as the victim's high profile creates added pressure on city officials to provide answers.

Brunetti is introduced in this first book of the series and he is an interesting study. His investigation style probably conforms with that of his city's culture, more of a laid bac
...more
Giacomo
Sep 08, 2012 Giacomo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read @ ten of Donna Leon's books and this review reflects my opinion of most of them. Some have a slightly better story, a little more engaging than others, but for the most part, the books are about Brunetti, and about Venezia, and the Italian people.

Commissario Guido Brunetti is a deep and interesting character, but he is unlike most detectives you’ll find in American mystery books. Brunetti solves crimes with his wits, and all the while deals with crooked politicians; his independent a
...more
Madeline
Jun 08, 2010 Madeline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before I get to the review part, can I ask a question of my Goodreads friends? I know some of you probably speak Italian, so can someone please tell me how to properly pronounce "Fenice"? With my years of French I automatically go with "Fe-nees", but I suspect the correct pronunciation might be "Fen-nee-che". Whenever I have to say the title out loud I'm never sure if I'm saying it right and always end up waffling between the two options. So it'd be nice if someone could tell me how to say it ri ...more
Tony
Aug 17, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leon, Donna. DEATH AT LA FENICE. (1992). ****.
This was the author’s first in her series of cases featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti and the city of Venice – so much for my reading the books in order. The mysteries, so far, seem to be low key psychological investigations into various crimes, concentrating on the people behind the crimes rather than on the crimes themselves. In this respect, Ms. Leon ha modeled herself after the novels of George Simenon and his police commissioner Maigret. As w
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Elizabeth (Alaska)
This was a quick read (for me), so to say I didn't enjoy reading it would be wrong. The prose is good enough - better than "boring", but not quite "interesting." As to characterizations, Commissario Guido Brunetti is almost a real person. It's possible he actually becomes one in subsequent books in the series.

The problem is that I like mysteries to be mysteries and I correctly identified the perpetrator very early. I think it was in the 2nd chapter. The clues were too obvious. There were some w
...more
Bill
Sep 26, 2014 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Donna Leon is one of my favourite mystery writers. I love the characters, Commissario Brunetti and his family. Signorina Elletra, the Vice Questore's secretary is my favourite character, a strong, independent woman who is able to infiltrate the corners of bureaucracy to get vital information for Brunetti. The setting of Venice and Italy is interesting; you feel like you are walking along the canals of the city. The decay, decadence, corruption is highlighted, but at the same time, the honour and ...more
Jennifer
May 15, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I'm gearing up for my first trip to Venice and this book definitely got me in the mood. I enjoyed the descriptions of the city, the differences in how an Italian investigation is run as opposed to the usual American mysteries. If you are looking for a real potboiler, this isn't it. The book seemed more about the people and the places than solving the murder - until the end when suddenly the information all comes together into a resolution. This was a great way to start learning about the city - ...more
Skyring
Jan 26, 2011 Skyring rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have not only another long and complex detective series to devour, but a new destination!

The city of Venice is a lead character in these books. Not the tourist city of gondoliers and campaniles, but the little nooks and bars that the residents frequent. The Undercity, as it were, that the guidebooks don't mention. Oh, sure, the Grand Canal is here, as is St Marks and all the rest, but the city is shown as a place where people live, where people love, where people commit murder and all manner o
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Dirk
Mar 16, 2012 Dirk rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book reminded me why I can't usually find in genre fiction what satisfies me in a novel. I think this is a pretty good example of genre fiction. It does not flaunt, for example, the deliberately awkward and ugly similes characteristic of noir fiction. I recently stopped reading a detective Chen mystery (A case of Two Cities by Qui Xiaolong) after about 30 pages because from time to time blossomed in my path a simile resembling one of those giant Indonesian flowers that look and smel ...more
Kwoomac
I quite enjoyed this little mystery. It's the first in a series taking place in and around Venice. The protagonist is an affable police commissioner who manages to run his investigations his own way, in spite of a blustery clueless boss, all the time adhering to the societal, often archaic, rules and norms of Venice.

Some pluses for me - First of all it takes place in Italy, a place I love. There's lots of talk about food and wine, two of my favorite things. I love how everyone here has a glass
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Michael
Jul 29, 2011 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love Italy and I've tried reading a few of the Italian masters of crime fiction. I decided to read this because it is on a BBC Book Club list. I was pretty disappointed. Some people might like Donna Leon and I'm sure she has an army of fans but I found the prose stilted and dull, the plot cadaverous and the book stuffed with cliches and dull stereotypes about Italian life and culture. The prose style read as if it had been badly translated from the Italian.....it turns out the author is an Ame ...more
Book Concierge
Commissario Guido Brunetti makes his debut in this wonderful mystery set in Venice. World-renowned Maestro Helmut Wellauer is taken suddenly ill after the second act of La Traviata – or so management would have the audience believe. But it’s clear to the doctor who volunteers her assistance that the Maestro is beyond help. In fact, he’s quite dead when she arrives at his dressing room. It quickly becomes clear to Brunetti that there are several possible suspects, and that the victim, while a mus ...more
Allison
Apr 24, 2011 Allison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a so-so murder mystery. It was loaned to me by someone with whom I work because the detective in this series is located in Venice. Then, both my kid's school principal and my mother recommended I read it for the same reason. Honestly, there are apparently another 20 books in the series and I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone would read them. This book, while completely readable, is formulaic, predictable and totally acceptable if you have nothing else, but it certainly isn't ...more
Jan
Dec 06, 2014 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Death at La Fenice,” written in 1992, is a fine introduction to Donna Leon’s popular Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series. I wouldn’t stick with the series based on the plot alone, which was hardly compelling, but the characters of Guido and Paola Brunetti; the setting, that one-of-a-kind city, Venice; and the strong recommendations of two friends make me eager for more.

I was taken with Commissario Brunetti at once. He is bright, wry, and eminently practical, and knows just how to handle h
...more
Blackcal
May 31, 2016 Blackcal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
J'ai beaucoup aimé le livre, même si je l'ai commencé sans grandes attentes. C'est la première enquête du commissaire Brunetti: un des chefs d'orchestre les plus connus au monde, Wellauer, est empoisonné pendant l'entracte à la Fenice. Assez vite, le commissaire découvre que si tout le monde regrette la grande perte musicale que Wellauer représente, personne n'est vraiment attristé par la mort du personnage. Des vieilles rumeurs ressortent sur ses liens passés avec le nazisme, son côté coureur d ...more
Florence Millo
Sep 27, 2014 Florence Millo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this mystery. (One thing I appreciated about it was its length. 270 pages is about right IMHO. Too often today authors write by the pound with little to justify the length.) It was well written and the characters well developed. I can see Commissario Brunetti in my future reading.
Fiona
Jun 04, 2010 Fiona rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was okay. I could have written the detective part of the book. Being based in Venice and about people who grew up and live in Venice, that was pretty interesting. But the detective part was pretty weak.
Joseph Longo
Mar 16, 2016 Joseph Longo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I returned from a trip to Venice, a friend recommend a detective series, written by Donna Leon, an American living in Venice. Her Venetian detective is Commissario Guido Burnette, and this novel concerns itself with the murder of a world-famous and not very pleasant conductor of La Fenice, the Venice opera house. The writing is intelligent, a bit pleasantly slow moving, and contains Leon's vivid, astute and insightful observations of contemporary Venice. It was an enjoyable read and I am ea ...more
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 Joyce Lagow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brunetti
First in the Commisario Guido Brunetti series set in Venice, Italy.[return][return]At La Fenice, Venice s renowned opera house, the curtain is ready to go up for the final act of Verdi s La Traviata. Everyone is ready and waiting, but the conductor, the world famous Helmut Wellauer, doesn t appear--because he is dead, of cyanide poisoning, in his dressing room.[return][return]Enter Commisario (Chief Inspector) Guido Brunetti, a compassionate, idealistic but realistic Venetian. Aspects of the cas ...more
Stuart
Feb 26, 2013 Stuart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book a lot; sat down and read it in a day. As is often the case, I came back to the first book in a series after having read a few of the later ones. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not – but at least I know that I like the later ones. This is indeed the first book in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series, set in and featuring the city of Venice. But strangely for me, it immediately featured a character (Brett Lynch) who had already featured in one of the subsequent books I ...more
Sara
Aug 10, 2011 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not much of a mystery reader, but I suspect this isn't really of the caliber of an Agatha Christie or Alexander McCall Smith. The writing is stilted as if it had been translated from another language (it hasn't). The characters are fully fleshed out in a way that's nice -- except for our sleuth Commissario Brunetti, who seems oddly unmotivated. His main psychological repertoire involves feeling awkward and wondering about why he's wondering about something. I'm not sure precisely how much of ...more
Spiros
Aug 31, 2007 Spiros rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, citylights
The first of the Commissario Brunetti mysteries, and if I had read it first, I probably wouldn't have read another: it suffers a little bit from the tweeness that I feared the series would suffer from when I avoided it all these years. It is redeemed by the mimesis which Leon employs in having a homicide occur in an operatic milieu with operatic means and motive, and while I suspected the truth about halfway through the story, I was unprepared for the harrowing reasons behind the crime(s).
What
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Skip
May 05, 2013 Skip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-detective
Maestro Helmut Wellauer is a world-renowned German conductor, who dies during the second intermission of La Traviata at the La Fenice theatre in Venice. While adored for his musical talent, the man is an egotistical bigot, and while nobody seems to dislike him enough to kill him, he is nonetheless dead from cyanide poisoning. Police commissario Guido Brunetti is assigned the case by his overbearing boss, and has to solve the case while considering Wellauer's wife (who is 37 years younger than he ...more
Bfisher
Aug 17, 2015 Bfisher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
I thoroughly enjoyed this, but not as a mystery. Early in, I found that I did not care much about knowing who killed the victim. Like Brunetti, I was much more interested in the people Brunetti encountered as he investigated the murder.
Rajan
Santore said nothing, so Brunetti prompted him. ‘Never speak ill of the dead, vero? Is that it?’





‘And never speak ill of someone you might have to work with again,’ Santore added.
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Donna Leon (born September 29, 1942, in Montclair, New Jersey) is an American author of a series of crime novels set in Venice and featuring the fictional hero Commissario Guido Brunetti.

Donna Leon has lived in Venice for over twenty-five years. She has worked as a lecturer in English Literature for the University of Maryland University College - Europe (UMUC-Europe) in Italy, then as a Professor
...more
More about Donna Leon...

Other Books in the Series

Commissario Brunetti (1 - 10 of 25 books)
  • Death in a Strange Country (Commissario Brunetti, #2)
  • Dressed for Death (Commissario Brunetti, #3)
  • Death and Judgment (Commissario Brunetti, #4)
  • Acqua Alta (Commissario Brunetti, #5)
  • Quietly in Their Sleep (Commissario Brunetti, #6)
  • A Noble Radiance (Commissario Brunetti, #7)
  • Fatal Remedies (Commissario Brunetti, #8)
  • Friends in High Places (Commissario Brunetti, #9)
  • A Sea of Troubles (Commissario Brunetti, #10)
  • Wilful Behaviour (Commissario Brunetti, #11)

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“His clothing marked him as Italian. The cadence of his speech announced that he was Venetian. His eyes were all policeman.” 4 likes
“Though everyone in the bar knew who he was, no one asked him about the death, though one old man did rustle his newspaper suggestively.” 3 likes
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