My sister bought me two Donna Leon books for Christmas and I enjoyed reading them both in front of an open fire relaxing at home with my dog, before going back to work in January. The first was the first book in the Brunetti series: Death a la Fenice. It is set in Venice and follows the Commissario of Police, Guido Brunetti, as he tries to find out who poisoned the world-famous German conductor Helmut Wellauer in the middle of an opera performance. The conductor turns out to be a man with many enemies and a murky wartime past (the book is set in the early 1990s), so it is not easy untangling who might have done it. Unusually for a detective, Brunetti has a fulfilling home life, with a loving wife whom he enjoys returning to at the end of a trying day dealing with his demanding boss, with leads going nowhere and mounting pressure to solve the case. I have never been to Venice, but the novel conjures up the canals and streets in winter beautifully. It made me want to put on a thick, warm coat and go to Venice immediately (before it sinks).
The second book in the series, Death in a Strange Country, starts with the discovery of an American body in one of Venice’s canals, and follows Brunetti as he finds out who the victim is and tries to get to the bottom of what has happened. It takes him to an American military base at Vicenza where something sinister is going on and where everyone is working hard to place blame elsewhere and to cover up what is really going on. Brunetti’s father-in-law, a Count, gets involved to help, there is a missing Monet painting to track down, and a pair of shoes to be disposed of when they become too dangerous to wear. Intrigued? You will be.