Is there a doctor in the house?

Death at La Fenice is the first in Donna Leon's popular Guido Brunetti Venice set mysteries. It's one of the very best in a series that is uniformly of a high standard. Set in the world of opera, a setting that the author clearly loves, this is a smashing classic crime story.

A doctor in the house is definitely needed in this mystery when a famous conductor is poisoned partway through a performance of La Traviata at Venice's iconic opera house La Fenice. The conductor, who's at least partly modelled on Herbert von Karajan, was a musical genius, but made enemies easily with his narrow-minded attitudes. Three suspects present themselves to Brunetti, who's under pressure from his boss to get the case cleared up as soon as possible : the wife, the diva, and the diva's lesbian lover; but Brunetti soon begins to suspect that there's more to this case than first appears, and starts to delve into the conductor's murky past... There's a revenge story that, as a musician, I think is one of the best ever invented, and the story behind the crime is very well plotted.

It's a clever stylish mystery. As always in Leon's hands Venice is never less than beautiful, even in the poorer parts of the city. Brunetti is engaging and loveable, as are his family, while there's a nice line in some, occasionally rather black, humour. A great classic crime read, and a brilliant introduction to Donna Leon on top form.


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