Death at La Fenice is the first of 31 Commissario Brunetti mysteries. If you haven’t heard of this series, which began in 1992, Commissario Brunetti is a middle-aged detective in Venice, Italy.
This inaugural mystery begins with a very dead, very famous maestro found on the floor of his dressing room. Tragic? Yes. But also very inconvenient – he died during the intermission of an opera! Word quickly spreads, as do the rumors and innuendo. Did he die of old age? Was he murdered? With potentially thousands of suspects to detain and interview, Venice needs Commissario Brunetti on the case. Over a very quick 270 pages, the reader looks over Brunetti’s should as he hoofs it all over the city, interviewing everyone from the most well-known singers to the unnoticed grave diggers and everyone in between.
I appreciated that Brunetti is just a good, nomral guy. He doesn’t have any wild personality flaws or affectations. He isn’t a cad. I’m not even sure that he is “great” at his jo as protagonists so often are. He’s just been doing it a long time and he is patient.
I think the protagonist’s understated personality allows Venice to be a character of its own, as well as its people and food. Gosh, at one point write Donna Leon is describing a rich risotto and I had to put down the book and walk downstairs to the kitchen for some wine (a German reisling instead of something from Italy but what can you do).
Donna Leon instantly creates an enjoyable character and setting. I’ll be returning to Venice to work another case with Guido Brunetti sooner rather than later.