Books : reviews

Donna Leon.
Death at La Fenice.
Arrow. 1992

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 9 July 2021

The twisted maze of Venice’s canals has always been shrouded in mystery. Even the celebrated opera house, La Fenice, has seen its share of death. But nothing so horrific and violent as that of world-famous conductor, Maestro Helmut Wellauer – poisoned during a performance of La Traviata.

Even Commissario of Police, Guido Brunetti, used to the labyrinthine corruptions the city, is shocked at the number of enemies Wellauer has made on his way to the top – but just how many have motlve enough for murder?

The beauty of Venice is crumbling – and evil can seep through its decaying stones…

A world-famous musician is killed, poisoned, during the interval of an opera he was conducting in Venice. To start with, it seems inconceivable anyone would do such a thing: he was a revered genius. But as police Commissario Brunetti investigates, he discovers Brunetti was a bully, a homophobe, and worse. By the end, it seems everyone had a motive, so just who administered the fatal dose?

This is a slow, steady police procedural, as Brunetti walks around a freezing cold Venice, interviewing people, drinking coffee in cafes, drinking wine at home, outmanoeuvring his incompetent boss, and avoiding his wife’s aristocratic parents. Unfortunately, I guessed the who and (immediate) why fairly early on, but I did stick around to find the next level of complication. Some readers rave about the sense of place, but I just felt miserable and cold.