I've read Leon's books out of order, but I don't think it really matters. They are simply excellent, however you read them. Death at la Fenice is the first, and is surprisingly assured and polished for a debut that was written after a challenge from a friend. Given that this is a first performance, Leon was clearly a natural writer for this genre.
This is the first apearance of Guido Brunetti, who is called in to investigate after the death of an eminent conductor part-way through a performance of La Triviata. He was poisoned in his dressing room. The press will be baying for a solution; with every day that passes when this murderer roams free a great slur is wrought on the name of Venice.
As Brunetti diligently digs away, he uncovers a portrait of a complex and fascinating man, but one who has made a very unhealthy number of enemies on his way to the top...
Anyone anywhere who is a fan of crime novels simply cannot ignore Donna Leon. You must pick up one of her sublime books immediately, and you are gauranteed enjoyment. There is such an easy to the writing, and she plots so very well. It moves along at excellent pace, and all manner of secrets and suspects creep fromt he woodwork, and she still manages to produce an absolutely astounding solution which is incredibly satisfying indeed, despite the fact that it seems to break one crime fictions golden rules. That matters not, though; Donna Leon can do absolutely anything. In terms of crime novels, she can do no wrong at all.
Death at la Fenice is a first-class piece of fiction, and Venice makes for an inspired backdrop which she utilises very well indeed. Buy it.