Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
Death at La FeniceBetween the second and third acts of La Traviata at La Fenice in Venice the conductor is discovered dead. He apparently drank coffee with cyanide in it. Maestro Helmut Wellauer was one of the greatest conductors in the world. He has made a lot of enemies throughout his career. He may have been a Nazi but did survive through World War II. He was homophobic – he had to work with gay artists but would often find ways to demean or threaten them. He was on his third marriage. His third wife was in the audience the night he died. His second wife committed suicide when their daughter was 12 or so. He could make or break great opera singers.
Police Commissario Guido Brunetti is assigned to the case. Brunetti is a methodical man who is sensitive to his witnesses and suspects. The immediate suspects are Wellauer’s wife, the director of the current production of La Traviata, an ex-lover who lives in Venice, and a number of the musicians or artists involved with the production. Brunetti’s superior wants him to tie up this high profile case quickly. Brunetti is satisfied with his pace. He is unravelling the mystery and believes he can find who poisoned the maestro.
Death at La Fenice is well crafted, with interesting twists. Brunetti arrives at the surprising conclusion through patience and persistence. There is a satisfying sense of justice at the end.
Brunetti’s character is pleasant yet formidable. Donna Leon develops his character and background well, with his wife, children, and wealthy in-laws. She gives a good feel to Venice – showing the feel and rhythm of the city for the people who live there.
A friend sent me Death at La Fenice when she learned my vacation started in Venice this year. I read it on the plane to Italy. Death at La Fenice is a well written procedural mystery. I hope to read more of this series.