The first book in a mystery series.

Publication year: 1992
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1997
Format: print
Finnish translator: Titia Schuuman
Page count: 272
Finnish Publisher: Otava

The famous German conductor Wellauer is found poisoned in his room at the opera house La Fenice, in Venice. Apparently, someone put poison into his coffee which he drank during the break between the second and third acts of Verdi’s La Traviata. Police Commissioner Guido Brunetti is assigned to the case. Brunetti questions the singers and Wellauer’s significantly younger wife. It seems that while pretty much everyone respected him as a musical genius, they didn’t much care for him as a person. Soon, Brunetti starts to think that Wellauer’s past has something to do with his murder. The conductor was an old man and there were rumors that he had been a member of the Nazi party when he was much younger, during the war.

In fact, it seems that Brunetti is the only competent officer in Venice. His superior got his post because of family ties and it seems that he doesn’t know anything about police work. In this case, Brunetti has two underlings who seem to care more about sitting in cafes than doing their work. In contrast to many other mystery novels, Brunetti isn’t single or divorced. He’s happily married to his wife Paola and they have a son and a daughter. Paola’s parents are aristocrats and they know quite a lot about the people in their circles, which turns out to be pretty important in this case. We find out quite a lot about Brunetti’s and Paola’s life up to this point.

This is not a thriller nor does the book have any action scenes. It’s basic detective work where Brunetti questions people and sometimes finds out something which will point him to the correct direction. The pace is leisurely which fits the plot and the atmosphere.

I quite enjoyed the characters and the leisurely pace for a change. I also really enjoyed the descriptions of Venice.