Donna Leon has been an author I’ve circled round for a while, but for some reason in my mind I had her pegged in the Tess Gerritsen slasher / thriller type mode. A comment from my friend Sara (“a bit of light and frothy detective fun”) helped me realise my perception was wrong, and so when I found myself in the mood for something light and frothy, I ploughed in.
Firstly, it’s important to assess the main detective: and Brunetti is great – erudite, learned, sharp, slightly jaded and he is matched by the effervescent Paola, his wife, who plays a more significant role than any detective-spouse I can remember (and is a great character in her own right). I very much enjoyed Brunetti’s combination of world-weariness, experience but also curiosity and ability to learn from his own mistakes.
The main character is arguably Venice and if you have been to Venice and think fondly of it, then this book will take you back there. Whether hanging at a vaporetto stop early in the morning, or walking past the Rialto, the story weaves through the streets of the city and Leon evokes its atmosphere nicely. This is supplemented by some interesting suspects to the main murder (of a conductor) including a soprano, her lesbian lover, a wife with possible motives, and a range of fairly disgruntled musicians.
The plot was a bit less strong, although I certainly didn’t guess whodunnit or howdunnit, partly because it was pretty far-fetched: I’d be impressed if anyone got the means and motive without prior knowledge. But this was Leon’s first (of quite a few) Brunetti books, so I’m looking forward to returning to the series in due course. The combination of Venice with her detective (and his family) is one worth returning to.
BUY IT NOW: Death at La Fenice: (Brunetti 1)