Death at La Fenice

Death at La Fenice
Donna Leon

“The third gong, announcing that the opera was about to continue, sounded discreetly through the lobbies and bars of Teatro La Fenice. In response, the audience stabbed out cigarettes, finished drinks and conversations, and started to filter back into the theater. The hall, brightly lit between acts, hummed with the talk of those returning to their seats. Here a jewel flashed, there a mink cape was adjusted over a naked shoulder or an infinitesimal speck of dust was flicked from a satin lapel. The upper galleries filled up first, followed by the orchestra seats and then the three rows of boxes.”

Famous German conductor Maestro Wellauer was found dead in his dressing room at the begging of the third act of Traviata. It seems that he has been poisoned. Police is called and the first one at the scene is Commissario Guido Brunetti. Maestro Wellauer was a world renowned conductor and Commisario has to find his killer quickly. But that’s not easy. Helmuth Wellauer was an enigmatic person. Genius musician but not very liked as a human being.  Commissario Brunetti has his work cut out for him because he has to find the truth in the sea of suspects.

This is the first in series of books staring Commissario Guido Brunetti. Donna Leon wrote 19 more. It’s also the first one I read and I like it. Guido Brunetti is my kind of detective. A bit tired, a bit sarcastic but calm and good at what he does. He really loves Venice, not as a tourist would but as a man who knows all her secrets. As you read on a part of that love rubs of on you. You start thinking of Venice as a part of the story, as it’s most glamorous participant.

Donna Leons writing is light, fluent and uncomplicated. I like how she separates Brunetties quiet family life from the brutality of his police work. It makes you think that he can do both. I also loved the way she describes Venice, you can imagine the atmosphere perfectly.

This is not a spectacular book but it has all the right pieces for a nice, little crime story. I’m looking forward to reading the second one.

“The darkness of the night hid the moss that crept up the steps of the palazzi lining the Grand Canal, obscured the cracks in the walls of churches, and covered the patches of plaster missing from the facades of public buildings. Like many women of a certain age, the city needed the help of deceptive light to recapture her vanished beauty. A boat that, during the day, was making a delivery of soap powder or cabbages, at night became a numinous form, floating toward some mysterious destination. The fogs that were common in these winter days could transform people and objects, even turn long-haired teenagers, hanging around a street corner and sharing a cigarette, into mysterious phantoms from the past.”


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