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.
DEATH IN A STRANGE COUNTRY.
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.