Sunday, February 17, 2008
Death at La Fenice (1992) Donna Leon
Guido Brunetti is vice-commissario of police in the Venice, and a good detective as well. When a world famous maestro is found dead in his dressing room, from what seems to be cyanide poisoning, Guido is immediately pressured to find the killer, lest Venice receive bad press.
Although I guessed the killer about halfway through, it didn’t take away any of my enjoyment from the story, because I’d still not figured out they why.
Guido is a very good detective who is also compassionate–something that you don’t always find in fictional police detectives. I enjoyed watching Guido’s impressions of different individuals change as he spent more time interviewing them. The other thing I liked was his relationship with his family and his wife’s family. Relationships that initially seemed cliched quickly turned into something more complex, as we see Guido’s opinion of those around him changing–and learn of their impressions of him.
Donna Leon does a very good job of building not just the mystery, but also the characters and the story. No one is quite as expected, and the story wandered in place I didn’t expect, but seemed reasonable after we went there.
About the only thing that struck me as strange was the attitude towards homosexuals held by certain characters in the story. I am not sure if this was due to the fact that the book was set more than 15 years ago, or because the attitudes in Italy are different from those in the US (I’d actually be very interested in learning which it was–but not curious enough that I’m going to do work and look it up.) And let me make it clear it was not the main characters that held these attitudes, but those attitudes did not seem to be seen as unusual, which was unusual for me.
I also loved the details about Venice, and how the city plays such a prominent part in the story. It’s another city I’ve love to visit, but I fear that by the time I ever get around to all the travel I’d like to do, the feel of so many cities will be gone.
If you like mysteries set in cities not your own, then I highly recommend Death at La Fenice. Good detective, good city, good story.