'A splendid series . . . with a backdrop of the city so vivid you can almost smell it.' The Sunday Telegraph
Winner of the Suntory Mystery Fiction Grand Prize
The twisted maze of Venice's canals has always been shrouded in mystery. Even the celebrated opera house, La Fenice, has seen its share of death ... but none so horrific and violent as that of world-famous conductor, Maestro Helmut Wellauer, who was poisoned during a performance of La Traviata. Even Commissario of Police, Guido Brunetti, used to the labyrinthine corruptions of the city, is shocked at the number of enemies Wellauer has made on his way to the top - but just how many have motive enough for murder? The beauty of Venice is crumbling. But evil is one thing that will never erode with age.
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.