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).
The third in Leon's richly evocative mysteries set in Venice and starring police Commissario Guido Brunetti reveals several flaws in Brunetti's character--some endearing, some disquieting, all intriguing. A man's body is found near a place popular with prostitutes. His legs and chest are shaved; his shoes are red, high-heeled and brand new. But what initially looks like the violent death of a transvestite whore may be a different sort of murder ineptly disguised: the victim is middle-aged, his body has been inexpertly shaved and his face is battered beyond recognition. In a tougher story than the previous Death at La Fenice, the Commissario's sensitivity is challenged by his dealings with demimonde creatures to whom he has not previously given much thought. A coincidence directs him, perhaps too easily, toward a villain who is soon covering tracks with more killing; lawyers, laundered money--and sodomy--also figure in the case's resolution. While struggling with his prejudices, Brunetti must hide his glee as the wife of his hated superior makes a highly visible departure into the arms of a famed pornographer. Venice takes on a deep noir tint in Leon's latest well-crafted work. (June)
The sophisticated yet still moral Brunettia] proves a worthy
custodian of timeless values and verities. ("The Wall Street
Journal") Brunetti... the most humane sleuth since Georges
Simenonas Inspector Maigret... is a decent man [who achieves] a
quiet heroism. ("The Philadelphia Inquirer")
The sophisticated yet still moral Brunetti proves a worthy custodian of timeless values and verities. ("The Wall Street Journal") Brunetti... the most humane sleuth since Georges Simenons Inspector Maigret... is a decent man [who achieves] a quiet heroism. ("The Philadelphia Inquirer")