Donna Leon was born in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1942. She is the author of twenty-three crime novels that take place in Venice, Italy, and feature Commissario Guido Brunetti as the protagonist, with support characters that help him solve the crimes. While not much is known about her, Donna has been praised by fans and critics alike for her work, which is found by most to be thoughtful and descriptive by content. Not much is known about Donna, other than what she has allowed to be published since she is a very private person and prefers to keep her private life to herself.
Donna Leon has lived in Venice, Italy for just over thirty years, which has helped her with writing her novels. She has been known to describe Venice as a very peaceful, urban place of great beauty. Prior to writing her novels, she worked professionally as an English Literature lecturer at the University of Maryland University College – Europe (UMUC Europe). Prior to her occupation as a lecturer, she worked from the years 1981-1999 in the role of Professor at the Vicenza, Italy American military base, which is one of the inspirations for her second novel entitled Death in a Strange Country. She ceased her teaching profession to concentrate on her passions: writing and working on Baroque music, among other culturally-inclined endeavors. Writing has largely been her most focused work, and it is apparent both in her novels and in her writing style, that she is a true artist of her craft.
All of Donna’s novels occur within the city of Venice, Italy, or at least within the surrounding areas. While her novels have been translated from her native English to a variety of foreign languages, she has asked that they not be translated into Italian.
Donna Leon has won many awards for her books including the Suntory Mystery Fiction Grand Prize for her first novel Death at La Fenice, the Golden Book Award from the Austrian Booksellers Association, the International Deutscher Krimi Preis, 3rd place, for Dressed for Death, the CWA Silver Dagger Award for Friends in High Places, the Chorine – International Book Prize for Willful Behaviour, and the Spoken Word Awards Silver Award for Blood From a Stone. Additionally, eighteen of her twenty-three novels have been produced as broadcast dramas by German Television. Her writings have been lauded as one of Time Magazine’s “6 Detective Series to Savor,” and she has been named as one of The Times (London, England) “Fifty Greatest Crime Writers.”
The span of time within which Donna Leon has written her novels runs from the years 1992 to 2014. Her main character, Commissario Guido Brunetti, is a police commissioner who serves under a rather pompous, slightly humorous Vice-questore by the name of Patta. Patta’s secretary, Signorina Elettra and Sergente Vianello assist Brunetti with research he needs in order to solve the crimes that occur in and around Venice. Signorina Elettra is considered “well connected,” and is arguably the most helpful to Brunetti regarding research that is performed for his investigations; Sergente Vianello is his “right hand man,” who is pleasant and sharp-witted. Donna Leon take the opportunity to imbibe her novels with aspects of every day life in Venice, Italy, while also exposing the unpleasant, rough side of crime and its components. One type of event that fans of her novels can enjoy, while in Venice, Italy, is a walking tour of Guido Brunetti’s Venice. Participants can envision what Brunetti might have experienced, while traversing the various destinations on the walking tour, which include specific landmarks in Venice that Brunetti has either visited; something that true fans of her work have come to relish as a truly grand experience.
The first novel written by Donna Leon is entitled Death at La Fenice. It is basically about a crime that occurs with no visible clues in which to solve it. The protagonist, police commissioner Guido Brunetti, needs to discover why a distinguished German composer by the name of Helmut Wellauer, mysteriously dies horribly from cyanide poisoning found in a cup of coffee that he initially enjoys, during the intermission of the operatic performance of La Traviata. Brunetti finds the task of narrowing the murder suspects rather daunting, but eventually he narrows it down to the one suspect who has the most compelling reasons for having committed the crime. Revenge is a theme, in addition to depravity and other darker human themes, which most readers cannot put down, once they start their reading journey through the fantastic story.
The second novel in the Brunetti series is entitled Death in a Strange Country, and starts of with a terrible find: the body of a young American Soldier is discovered floating in a Venetian canal, and is subsequently fished out for investigation and processing. Commissario Brunetti discovers that the soldier was stationed at an American military base located just an hour west of Venice. Stab wounds are found throughout the body, and it initially appears to be an easily closed case of a brutal mugging, but for the fact that Brunetti must investigate the military base, and discover what really happened behind the murder. Of course, he discovers much more than just a mere case of mugging since the more he investigates the case, the more it is obviously not just a mugging; there is some sort of conspiracy behind it, and the poor soldier’s death is directly related to a cover-up. While schemes within the story include some of the nicer aspects of living in Venice, there are darker themes that are found throughout the novel, especially when Brunetti starts his investigation at the military base. One of the most interesting finds in the novel, with respect to Brunetti visiting the military base, is how it seems like a completely different world to him.
Books published in order by series
Guido Brunetti Books
|Death at La Fenice||(1992)|
|Death in a Strange Country||(1993)|
|The Anonymous Venetian / Dressed for Death||(1994)|
|A Venetian Reckoning / Death and Judgment||(1995)|
|Acqua Alta / Death in High Water||(1996)|
|The Death of Faith / Quietly in Their Sleep||(1997)|
|A Noble Radiance||(1997)|
|Friends in High Places||(2000)|
|A Sea of Troubles||(2001)|
|Blood from a Stone||(2005)|
|Through a Glass Darkly||(2006)|
|Suffer the Little Children||(2007)|
|The Girl of His Dreams||(2008)|
|A Question of Belief||(2010)|
|The Golden Egg||(2013)|
|By Its Cover||(2014)|
|Falling in Love||(2015)|
|The Waters of Eternal Youth||(2016)|
|The Temptation of Forgiveness||(2018)|
|Unto Us A Son Is Given||(2019)|
Guido Brunetti Non-Fiction Books
|The Jewels of Paradise||(2012)|
|My Venice and Other Essays||(2013)|