Beautiful and serene Venice is a city almost devoid of crime. But that is little comfort to Maestro Helmut Wellauer, a world-renowned conductor whose intermission refreshment comes one night with a little something extra in it-cyanide. For Guido Brunetti, vice-commissario of police and detective genius, finding a suspect isn't a problem; narrowing the...
Beautiful and serene Venice is a city almost devoid of crime. But that is little comfort to Maestro Helmut Wellauer, a world-renowned conductor whose intermission refreshment comes one night with a little something extra in it-cyanide. For Guido Brunetti, vice-commissario of police and detective genius, finding a suspect isn't a problem; narrowing the large and unconventional group of enemies down to one is. As the suave and pithy Brunetti pieces together clues, a shocking picture of depravity and revenge emerges, leaving him torn between what is and what should be right -- and questioning what the law can do, and what needs to be done.
From Publishers Weekly
A breathless beginning and an unexpected lack of reference to the lush setting mark this lively launch of a projected series of Venetian mysteries. When legendary German conductor Helmut Wellauer is found dead in his dressing room two acts into a performance of La Traviata , police commissario Guido Brunetti is called in. Among those who might have provided the cyanide poison that killed the maestro, immediate suspects include the vaunted conductor's coolly indifferent young wife and those many in the music industry who are offended by his homophobia. Methodically probing into the victim's past, Brunetti also uncovers Wellauer's Nazi sympathies and a lead to a trio of singing sisters from yesteryear--one now destitute, one dead and the other missing. Though burdened by a dictatorial superior and two lumpen subordinates, Brunetti gets help from his aristocratic wife and her well-connected parents. The narrative's best moments involve Brunetti's wry exchanges with his colleagues and the cunningly masked, obvious solution.
From Kirkus Reviews
Cyanide poisoning during the second-act intermission of La Traviata leaves the eminent conductor Helmut Wellauer dead, survived by a constellation of suspects from prima Flavia Petrelli (whose lesbian liaison with a wealthy American archeologist, Brett Lynch, Wellauer was threatening to expose) to director Franco Santore (furious over Wellauer's refusal to honor a bargain to find a job for Santore's prot?g?)--and including of course Wellauer's suddenly wealthy, and much younger, widow Elizabeth. The investigating officer, Guido Brunetti, Vice-Commissario of the Venice Police, brings to his first case tact, persistence, and a useful sympathy with young women--which becomes suddenly pertinent when he unearths Wellauer's prewar involvement with a family of three star-crossed girls. Deftly plotted and smoothly written in the Ngaio Marsh cultural mode, but recommended even for readers who, like Brett Lynch, don't care for Verdi.
Donna Leon has written four previous Guido Brunetti novels, Death and Judgment, Dressed for Death, Death in a Strange Country, and Death at La Fenice, which won the Suntory Prize for the best suspense novel of 1991. She teaches English at the University of Maryland extension at a U.S. Air Force base near Venice Italy, where she has lived for over twenty years.