Death at La Fenice Summary

Today, we will be reviewing the novel Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon. It is considered one of the best crime books of the 1900’s and after reading it, I can see why. Keep reading to read a short summary of the novel and why you should give it a read!

Death at La Fenice Summary

A world-famous German opera conductor named Helmut Wellauer, who was performing in La Fenice in Italy, is killed. Detective Guido Brunetti is assigned the case and he has to figure out who killed the conductor. To find out, Brunetti has to look into the conductor’s past to find out any motives as well as who Helmut Wellauer was as a person.

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
Death at La Fenice book review


This is the shortest summary to a book that I have written. The plot is a simple detective story that is told through the eyes of Brunetti. That direction works wonders as we get his unfiltered thoughts on everything including Italy. Part of what makes this novel so intriguing is Brunetti and how he perceives the world around him.

The writing style and the pacing make this novel a wonderful read. Leon does an excellent job of making the reader feel like they are part of the case. The mystery has a lot of twists and a bunch of fun characters that make it feel real. That is why it is hard to believe that Leon wrote the novel “as a joke.”

Yes, you read that right. A friend of hers suggested she try a crime novel and Leon did just that. After she completed it, she stashed it away. She submitted it for the Suntory prize in Japan and ended up winning and was offered a two-book contract by Harper Collins. That is why this turned into a series and more books about the detective followed.

I am glad that she ended up submitting the book as it was a really great read. This is a series that I will be reading in the near future because I have become a fan. Leon is an author that I haven’t come across before and I enjoyed her writing style a lot.

Death at La Fenice


Crime novels are one of my go to genres as I love reading wild murders and trying to figure out the murderer. Often times, the novels have too many twists so you can’t guess the murderer. But Leon goes with an honest approach and it pays off. The mystery has no leads but as Brunetti digs deeper, we see a few possible murderers and why they would have wanted the conductor dead.

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