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Death at La Fenice

(Commissario Brunetti #1)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  26,670 ratings  ·  2,283 reviews
There is little violent crime in Venice, a serenely beautiful floating city of mystery and magic, history and decay. But the evil that does occasionally rear its head is the jurisdiction of Guido Brunetti, the suave, urbane vice-commissario of police and a genius at detection. Now all of his admirable abilities must come into play in the deadly affair of Maestro Helmut Wel ...more
Paperback, 270 pages
Published July 27th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published June 19th 1992)
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Bill I am currently reading this for a mystery book club. I just finished another mystery for another book club ("Frog Music") I like to gravitate towards …moreI am currently reading this for a mystery book club. I just finished another mystery for another book club ("Frog Music") I like to gravitate towards literary fiction and it is a good question whether a mystery has content worthy of discussion or even reading beyond just a temporary excitement and escape. I feel that there is a range of depth and literary value across the mystery genre. I haven't read enough of "Death at La Fenice" to give an opinion on this mystery, but in general I would keep an open mind. The librarian who leads one of my book clubs and has a masters degree in English, said that "Strangers on a Train" which we had read, compared favorably to "Crime and Punishment". She felt that the theme of guilt was handled better by Patricia Highsmith (Strangers) than Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment). So, you never know. (less)

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Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon is a 2012 Grove Press publication. (Originally published in 1992)

Slightly dated, but oh the Venetian scenery!!

This is the first book in the long running Commissario Brunetti series. I’ve been curious about Donna Leon for ages but have never gotten around to sampling any of her work. This book is available in the Kindle Unlimited program, at the moment, giving me a great excuse to finally see for myself why this series has endured.

When a world- renowned musical c
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
mark monday
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: murdertime
this low-key and humane Venice-set detective yarn surprised me. not so much at the solving of the murder mystery (although I was surprised), but at how it all came together in such an organic way. the emphasis on family, children, little girls... the importance of doing the right thing even if it is not necessarily the legal thing... no spoilers here, but the end really brought things together in a way that made perfect emotional sense. all of the small everyday moments, the details that aren't ...more
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Anne Bogel
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I finally, finally read this after legions of readers said Donna Leon was perfect for Louise Penny fans who were all caught up with Inspector Gamache. In this first installment of the Commissario Brunetti mysteries, a renowned opera conductor is found dead in his dressing room, a victim of cyanide poisoning. It's significant to the story that this is a particularly painful way to die.

As the investigation unfolds, it's clear the man had a dark past and many enemies, and that the perpetrator want
Ivana Books Are Magic
Jul 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
If you didn't know, you don't have to know how to write to publish a book. All you need to do is pick a popular location, let's say Venice, populate it with one dimensional characters, every imaginable stereotype about Italy and the world, sentences that couldn't be called writing even if one was trying to be exceptionally kind- and there you go. Don't forget to randomly insert a bunch of Italian words to show your 'deep insight' into Italian culture.

You don't have to know anything about writin
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy
I chose this book, the first in the Commissario Brunetti mystery series, because the setting is Venice, and my family and I will be briefly visiting there soon. Donna Leon does a wonderful job describing the city. If you’re looking for the type of mystery that you can’t put down, this isn’t it. Except for the ending, when it all comes together, this book is more about characters and the setting. A famous, but not particularly likeable conductor is found dead in his dressing room at the La Fenice ...more
Blaine DeSantis
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being Italian I enjoy detective novels set in Italy. For some reason, however, I had never tried Donna Leon until a week ago. I really enjoyed Book 1 of the Brunetti mystery series. A conductor is found dead between acts at the Venetian Opera House, La Fenice, during a performance of La Traviata. It is fairly obvious that it was death by poisoning, but who had access to get the poison into the conductors cup of coffee?? There are plenty of clues, plenty of potential murderers and a lot of backst ...more
May 12, 2012 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
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 01, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
Susan in Perthshire
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-thriller
Oh I do so love visiting a foreign city and reading this book was as good as wandering around Venice for real. A great character in Commisario Brunetti who comes alive in front of one’s eyes. Great plotting and beautiful descriptions which evoke the reality of Venice. I have not read Brunettin order so starting at the beginning is a bit strange but it feels rather good. I look forward to catching up on the other ones I have missed!
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
This novel is about a world-famous conductor who is poisoned in his dressing room during an intermission. Commissario Brunetti, in his first outing, must dig deep into the man's past to find out who could possibly have wanted to do such a thing. Turns out there were quite a few people who had reason to dislike him, but enough for murder? I did guess the primary aspect of the case long before it was revealed, but it did not spoil the story, because there were still more mysteries to be uncovered. ...more
Roman Clodia
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first in this long-running series and Brunetti emerges fully-formed from the start with his humane efficiency, and his charming family. The plot doesn't have the same emotional and politicized depths as some of the later books but the Venetian setting and immaculate writing make this stand out in an over-crowded crime marketplace. ...more
Fred Shaw
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Death at La Fenice: A Commissario Brunetti Mystery by Donna Leon

Donna Leon is a master at developing irresistible characters, and her portraitures of Venice are done so well, that it was if I were there once again marveling at the antiquity and majesty of the city.

This is not an edge of the seat thriller, but it is a masterful murder mystery. The highly creative characters and the location of the story made it the page turner it is. The story is built around the likable Commissario Dottore Guid
Jun 16, 2019 rated it liked it
It’s a decent book. I correctly identified who it was very early on. That being said it was still an enjoyable read but I’m unsure if I’ll read another
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, italy
Fabuloso! Bravo, Signora Leon, on the first book in the Commissario Brunetti series. I will be reading more.

* Oops! Correction, that should be "Brava, Signora Leon."
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
Book Concierge
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 turns out the author is an Ame ...more
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Marina Kahn
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Started this book during our isolation & requirement to stay at home due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Since this affected Italy terribly I decided to read a book based on Venice. I had previously read two of Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti series #5 Aqua Alta & #17 The Girl Of his Dreams & I found both to be satisfiying reads. So what better way to start April but the first in the Brunetti mysteries.
This is not going to be a fast paced or gory story; the pace is slow & methodical and from the poi
2.5 ⭐️

My takeaway from the story is that Venice is very beautiful but the Italians are very rude. The characters are more like caricatures than real people. I did liked the twist at the end that’s why I rounded up.
I wanted to start a new police procedural series and after doing some research decided to begin the Commissario Brunetti series by Donna Leon. The ratings were high on Goodreads and Lj, an avid police procedural reader I follow, rated a number of books in the series quite highly.

One of my series’ criteria was to have an interesting central character. In a long running series, I want the police officer solving the crime to have a lot of depth, both personal strengths and foibles and to be very hu
Maestro Helmut Wellauer, considered the world's greatest living conductor, is found dead of cyanide poisoning between Acts 2 and 3 of La Traviata at Venice's La Fenice Opera House. Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venice police is called in to investigate. There are plenty of suspects since Wellauer made a lot of enemies on his way to the top.

An engaging and professional man in his forties, Brunetti is one of the three highest detectives working under Vice-Questore Giuseppi Patta, a pretentiou
Dolf Patijn
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
A number of years ago I bought a book by Donna Leon in Dutch. I thought the original was written in Italian only to learn that she is actually American and I also learned that the book I bought was number 9 in a series. Ah well, I promised myself that I would start reading the series from the start in English and then forgot about it until she was mentioned in a book about Venice that I read recently. I decided to make a start in the series and here I am, after reading the first book.

Donna Leon
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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

Other books in the series

Commissario Brunetti (1 - 10 of 30 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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