23 Oct 2012



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 of the city, is shocked at the number of enemies Wallauer has made on his way to the top - but just how many have motive enough for murder?

The beauty of Venice is crumbling - and evil can seep through its decaying stones ...

..... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): The third gong, announcing that the opera was about to continue, sounded discreetly through the lobbies and bars of Teatro La Fenice.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 115): A decade ago, the Count attempted to persuade Brunetti to leave the police and join him in a career in banking. He continually pointed out that Brunetti ought not to spend his life in the company of tax evaders, wife beaters, pimps, thieves, and perverts. The offers had come to a sudden halt one Christmas when, goaded beyond patience, Brunetti had pointed out that although he and the Count seemed to work among the same people, he at least had the consolation of being able to arrest them, whereas the Count was constrained to invite them to dinner.


Early one morning Guido Brunetti, commissario of the Venice Police, confronts a grisly sight when the body of a young man is fished out of a fetid Venetian canal. All the clues point to a violent mugging, but for Brunetti, robbery seems altogether too convenient a motive. Then something very incriminating is discovered in the dead man's flat - something which points to the existence of a high level cabal - and Brunetti becomes convinced that somebody, somewhere is taking great pains to provide a ready-made solution to the crime ....

... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): The body floated face down in the murky water of the canal.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 305): We are a nation of egotists. It is our glory, but it will be our destruction, for none of us can be made to concern ourselves about something as abstract as the 'common good.

MY THOUGHTS: Not that it really seems to matter where you start in this series as, character development aside, all of the books seem to work well as stand-alone stories but having read books 10 and 14 (see my reviews HERE) in DONNA LEON's Brunetti series I thought I'd set to and start at the beginning.

A bit disappointed with Book 1: Death At La Fenice. Though it did eventually capture my imagination it took a long while (well over 100 pages) to do so and as such despite having such a emotionally powerful (if not altogether unexpected) ending if this had been my first experience of Leon's writing I'm not too sure I would have bothered reading any of the other books in the series.

Unable to connect with many of the characters, I somehow related more with the 'underclass' of Venice's society as opposed to the opera going community featured in this novel, I also felt that this was lacking in the personal and 'political' touches that had made Brunetti such a compelling character in A Sea Of Troubles And Blood From A Stone.

A story of death, environmental issues and corruption, with characters and a plot that pretty much gripped from the start, BOOK 2: Death In A Strange Country kept me entranced right up until the very end though, hardly the best of this genre crime wise, it was once again the setting of Venice and how much we learned about its society courtesy of Brunetti, his family and colleagues, that made this the read that it was.

KEEP THEM OR NOT?: Borrowed from a friend (thanks Anya) I shan't be buying a copy.


Betty Manousos said...

hi tracy,

it just isn't the kind of book i care to read either.

always love your honest reviews. nice work!
big hugs

Arti said...

The setting is just great, Venice. Rest does not seem to be in place. Your reviews are just wonderful, love them.
Have a happy week ahead Tracy :)

Kelly said...

As you know, I love this series!

Your experience with the first book is actually one of the reasons I always start there. I know it often takes a writer a book or two to really start developing their characters. It was the setting (and the fact I found the first few copies in a used book store and already had them) that I soldiered on. I agree that it's the overall setting, etc. that make these books so appealing - not just the crime story.

I've only read the first eight, but have more in my TBR pile. I need to read another soon!!

GMR said...

Hmm, I had wondered about this author as I saw several of her works in the mystery section at our local bookstore. Closer review...meh, probably not my cup of tea; KUDOS to you for trying and sharing the experience though! Happier reading next time around...

fiction-books said...

Hi Tracy,

I have several of the author's books on my shelves, but have yet to read any of them.

This is based mainly on the comments which my father made, after I gave them to him to read first. He just couldn't get into the stories at all. although he did try three or four different Brunetti stories.

Now, whether this is because he prefers English and US characters, rather than European or Scandinavian detectives, or whether he just couldn't get on with the style of writing, I don't know.

I shall have to dig one out and give it a try, however your honest appraisal of the books is appreciated.

I hope that the next book you read is more to your liking.


Suko said...

Petty, thanks again for your "way with words" and your honest appraisal of this series.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Hm... I need to connect with characters to really be drawn into a story. I think I'll pass but good to know that if I pick up another in this series they can be read as stand alones.

naida said...

I read one of the later ones in this series and I really enjoyed it. I'm wondering if maybe they get better as she writes them.

carol said...

I've read several in this series, including the first, but all out of order. I do love the setting and the books, for the most part, although some are definitely better than others.

DMS said...

I haven't heard of this series- the setting does sound interesting.