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Donna Leon, Guido Brunetti and the Mystery of Venice Police Station

The Guido Brunetti Series of Novels

Donna Leon’s best-selling series featuring the principled, but warmhearted Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti has won her countless fans, critical acclaim, and international renown as one of the world’s best crime writers.

Brunetti contends with ingenious corruption, bureaucratic intransigence and everything the Venetian climate can throw at him from Acqua Alta, dense fog, rough seas, to the stifling heat of the Venetian summer.

Based mainly in Venice and surrounding areas

All Leon’s books are packed with colourful Venetian characters and the splendour of Venice, its lagoon and surrounding area, provide the perfect backdrop for a range of crimes for Commisario Guido Brunetti to investigate. Apart from his kindly nature and forensic skills, Brunetti often shows his human side when, for example, he is anxious to escape the tourist crush and fictional crime scene of Venice to spend some time with his family, only to find yet another crime that requires his talents.

Brunetti’s family

Brunetti is a cynic who knows he can only go so far in changing the system, although he continues to fight the sytem as well as crime.  Brunetti is happily married to Paola, a hereditary Contessa, from one of Venice’s oldest families, and they have two children, Raffi and Chiara. Paola teaches English in the public system and leans to the left wing, with fond memories of 1968.

The warmth of the Brunetti family contrasts with corruption and cruelty that Brunetti encounters at work. Venice’s head of police, Vice-questore Patta, is vain and self-serving , while Sergente Vianello and the all-knowing and well-connected Signorina Elettra, Patta’s secretary, provide practical help for Brunetti.

Donna Leon lives in Venice

While American in origin, Donna Leon has lived in Venice for 25 years. It is ironic then that her fans are causing a new tourist crush, as they visit and take photos of the police station, where Guido Brunetti is supposedly based. Whilst the novels have been translated into many different languages and have been made into 16 German TV films for example, the author has refused to have them translated into Italian. So most Venetians including the local police are bemused by this interest in their workplace and put it down to more eccentric tourist behaviour!

The 19 Brunetti books

The complete Brunetti series comprises:

  1. Death at La Fenice 1992
    During a performance of La Traviata at La Fenice opera house the distinguished German conductor is found dead, apparently poisoned by a cup of coffee. Brunetti embarks on a voyage of exploration among the often murky world both of opera and his family eventually unearthing a surprising conclusion.
  2. Death in a Strange Country 1993
    Brunetti confronts a grisly sight when the body of a young American is fished out of a fetid Venetian canal. Though all the signs point to a violent mugging, something incriminating turns up in the victim’s apartment that suggests the existence of a high level conspiracy.
  3. The Anonymous Venetian  1994 aka Dressed for Death
    Brunetti’s hopes of a refreshing family holiday in the mountains are dashed when a gruesome discovery is made in Marghera – a body so badly beaten that the face is completely unrecognizable. But when the victim’s identity is revealed, the investigation takes a very unexpected turn.
  4. A Venetian Reckoning 1995 aka Death and Judgment
    A truck crashes on one of the treacherous mountain roads in the Italian Dolomites, spilling a terrible cargo. Meanwhile, a prominent international lawyer is found dead in the carriage of an intercity train at Santa Lucia. Can the two tragedies possibly be connected? Commissario Guido Brunetti digs deep into the secret lives of Italy’s elite classes to find the answer.
  5. Acqua Alta 1996 aka Death in High Water
    As Venice braces for a winter tempest and the onslaught of acqua alta – the flood waters  – Commissario Guido Brunetti finds out that an old friend has been savagely beaten at the palazzo home of reigning diva Flavia Petrelli
  6. The Death of Faith 1997 aka Quietly in Their Sleep
    Brunetti comes to the aid of a young nursing sister who is leaving her convent following the unexpected death of five patients. At first, Brunetti’s inquiries revel nothing amiss, and he wonders whether the nun is simply creating a smoke screen to justify abandoning her vocation. But perhaps, she has stumbled onto something very real and very sinister – something that puts her life in imminent danger.
  7. A Noble Radiance 1997
    The new owner of a farmhouse at the foot of the Italian Dolomites is summoned to the house when his workmen disturb a macabre grave. Once on the job, Brunetti uncovers a clue that reignites an infamous cold case of kidnapping and disappearance involving one of Venice’s oldest, most aristocratic families.
  8. Fatal Remedies 1999
    For Commissario Brunetti, it begins with an early morning phone call. In the chill of the Venetian dawn, a sudden act of vandalism shatters the quiet of the deserted city. But Brunnetti is soon shocked to find that the culprit waiting to be apprehended at the scene is someone from his own family. Meanwhile, he is under pressure from his superiors at work to solve a daring robbery with a link to a suspicious accidental death. Does it all lead back to the Mafia? And how are his family’s actions connected to these crimes?
  9. Friends in High Places 2000
    Commissario Brunetti is visited by a young bureaucrat investigating the lack of official approval for the construction of Brunetti’s apartment years before. What began as a red tape headache ends in murder when the bureaucrat is later found dead after a mysterious fall from some scaffolding.
  10. A Sea of Troubles 2001
    The murder of two clam fishermen off the island of Pellestrina, south of the Lido on the Venetian lagoon, draws Commissario Brunetti into the island’s close-knit community, bound together by a code of loyalty and a suspicion of outsiders. When Signorina Elettra volunteers to visit the island, where she has relatives, Brunetti finds himself torn between his duty to solve the murders, concerns for Elettra’s safety, and his not entirely straightforward feelings for her.
  11. Wilful Behaviour 2002
    When one of his wife Paola’s students comes to visit him with an interest in investigating the possibility of a pardon for a crime committed by her grandfather many years ago, Commissario Brunetti thinks little of it, beyond being intrigued and attracted by the girl’s intelligence and moral seriousness. But when she is found stabbed to death, Claudia Leonardo is suddenly no longer simply Paola’s student, but Brunetti’s case.
  12. Uniform Justice 2003
    Brunetti faces an unsettling case when a young cadet has been found hanged, a presumed suicide, in Venice’s elite military academy. As he pursues his inquiry, he is faced with a wall of silence and finds himself caught up in the strange and stormy politics of his country’s powerful elite.
  13. Doctored Evidence 2004
    When a universally disliked elderly woman is murdered, suspicion immediately falls on her Romanian housekeeper, who is killed attempting to avoid arrest. The Venetian police consider the case closed until a neighbor returns from an extended trip abroad…
  14. Blood from a Stone 2005
    Shortly before Christmas, a man is killed in Venice’s Campo Santo Stefano. An illegal immigrant from Senegal, he is one of the vu’ cumprà who sell fake fashion accessories while trying to stay ahead of the law. At first, the crime seems like a simple clash between rival vendors, but as Commissario Guido Brunetti probes more deeply, he begins to suspect that this murder was the work of a professional. And why does his boss want him off the case?
  15. Through a Glass Darkly 2006
    When the body of a night watchman is found in front of a blazing furnace at De Cal’s glass factory along with an annotated copy of Dante’s Inferno, Brunetti must investigate. Does the book contain the clues Brunetti needs to solve the murder and uncover who is ruining the waters of Venice’s lagoon?
  16. Suffer the Little Children 2007
    A brutal attack on a pediatrician by a Carabiniere captain and two privates, who also take away the doctor’s eighteen-month-old son, draws Commissario Guido Brunetti and his colleague, Inspector Vianello, into a dangerous case involving a ring of baby traffickers and an illegal money-making scheme between pharmacists and doctors
  17. The Girl of His Dreams 2008
    One rainy morning Commissario Brunetti and Ispettore Vianello respond to an emergency call reporting a body floating near some steps on the Grand Canal. Reaching down to pull it out, Brunetti’s wrist is caught by the silkiness of golden hair, and he sees a small foot – together he and Vianello lift a dead girl from the water.
  18. About Face 2009
    A socialite asks Guido Brunetti to investigate a murder that happened in the underworld surrounding southern Italy’s garbage dumping grounds.
  19. A Question of Belief 2010
    With his hometown beset by hordes of tourists and baking under a glaring sun, Commissario Guido Brunetti’s greatest wish is to go to the mountains with his family, where he can sleep under a down comforter and catch up on his reading of history. But before he can go on vacation, he has police work to do. A folder with court records has landed on his desk, brought by an old friend. It appears that certain cases at the local court—hardly known as a model of efficiency—are being delayed to the benefit of one of the parties. A creative new trick for corrupting the system, perhaps, but what can Brunetti do about it?

Venice Police Station can be found at

Sestiere Castello, 5053
30122 Venice, Italy
For more stories, reviews and features about Venice go to veniceinfosite.com
  1. February 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    I love these novels, thanks for the info. on Donna Leon herself. I’m not surprised she hasn’t wanted them to be translated into Italian. She might lose all her friends in Venice! :-)

  2. Diana
    March 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Thank you for all the info about Donna Leon’s novels. I’ll check off the list; don’t think I’ve read all 19 yet, but love her stuff. I’m passing on the info to my Italian professor, and hope to retrace Brunetti’s steps the next time I
    visit Venezia. Ciao!

  3. May 28, 2011 at 5:11 am

    I always love reading about a story about a fellow Brunetti. It’s interesting, I wonder what caused Donna Leon to use the name Brunetti… Anyone know?

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