Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series grows more popular in America with the publication of every new novel. In this installment, Brunetti’s hopes of a refreshing family holiday in the mountains are once again dashed when a gruesome discovery is made in Marghera—a body so badly beaten the face is completely unrecognizable. Brunetti searches Venice for someone who can identify the corpse, but he is met with a wall of silence. Then he receives a telephone call from a contact who promises some tantalizing information. And before the night is out, Brunetti is confronting yet another appalling, and apparently senseless, death.
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A New Yorker of Irish/Spanish descent, Donna Leon first went to Italy in 1965, returning regularly over the next decade or so while pursuing a career as an academic in the States and then later in Iran, China and finally Saudi Arabia. It was after a period in Saudi Arabia, which she found ‘damaging physically and spiritually’ that Donna decided to move to Venice, where she has now lived for over twenty years.
Her debut as a crime fiction writer began as a joke: talking in a dressing room in Venice’s opera-house La Fenice after a performance, Donna and a singer friend were vilifying a particular German conductor. From the thought ‘why don’t we kill him?’ and discussion of when, where and how, the idea for Death at La Fenice took shape, and was completed over the next four months.
Donna Leon is the crime reviewer for the London Sunday Times and is an opera expert. She has written the libretto for a comic opera, entitled Dona Gallina. Set in a chicken coop, and making use of existing baroque music, Donna Gallina was premiered in Innsbruck. Brigitte Fassbaender, one of the great mezzo-sopranos of our time, and now head of the Landestheater in Innsbruck, agreed to come out of retirement both to direct the opera and to play the part of the witch Azuneris (whose name combines the names of the two great Verdi villainesses Azucena and Amneris).From AudioFile:
This is your basic police procedural set in Venice. It features a likeable, methodical detective, Guido Brunetti, who sacrifices his vacation in the mountains to track down a scam and the murderer of a banker disguised as a transvestite. Anna Fields reads the story in a hard-edged, gravelly voice, which fits the plot even if it doesn't please the ear. Donna Leon writes like a female Ed McBain, only the detectives cruise canals and not the mean streets of New York. This is an often slow-paced story, but the plot is plausible and well-conceived. Most listeners will stay with it. D.L.G. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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