Ah, Venezia! Gondolas glide down the canals, palaces shimmer in the water, and opera maestros die between the first and second acts of La Traviata. Who did it? Was it the young, German wife? The diva soprano or her American female companion? How about the theatrical director with whom he argued just before the production began?
Never fear, Commissario Brunetti is on the case, conducting interviews between sips of espresso or prosecco. His schoolteacher wife is from a well-connected and wealthy family, and Brunetti reluctantly uses their help to gain access to the glitterati, ever aware of his own working-class childhood. Rounding out the cast are their precocious twelve-year-old daughter, an officious and politically obsequious chief, a couple of useless detectives, and several more intriguing suspects. The city of Venice is a character on its own, infusing every scene with faded glory, luxurious living, and proud culture.
Death at La Fenice is the first volume in the “Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery” series, and the reader will be eager to return to this beautiful place with such charming characters. Signor Brunetti stands in front of his suspects, reading from the notebook he holds open in his hand, when the actual writing on the page is a list of books that he would like to read. Who doesn’t love a man who keeps a “To Be Read” list? His wife is a brilliant, refined woman with an insatiable appetite for scandalous gossip magazines. She always wants to guess the killer in his homicide cases on the very first day, and she is always wrong. Their marriage is inspiring, and they treat one another with respect and a fun sense of humor.
The suspects were a diverse lot, and I did not guess the truth until fairly close to the end, unlike my husband, who always guesses the correct answer—Professor Plum in the conservatory with the lead pipe—in the very first act. (Do not go to the movies with him. He declares it out loud.) Donna Leon has a winner of a series here. Death at La Fenice was written in 1992, and I look forward to 26 more trips to Italy with the commissario.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer.