This author is my most recent find. I went up into our loft to find something to read last month. In
one of my fiction stashes I found Donna Leon’s Acqua Alta a mystery set in Venice. I had
purchased this book along with about 300 other fine, first editions in the box lots at an auction in
Dartmouth, in March 2015. I paid about $1 a volume for books that came from one person’s
library who would have paid much more as she collected these books over the years. When I
got home I told my son, Gregory, that if his parents croaked DO NOT sell the library at auction.
That got me to thinking – well what should he do? This was the key event that lead to the
decision to start up Raven & Gryphon Fine Books.
So back to the book. Here are some snippets from the Blurb – “With Acqua Alta, Donna Leon’s
award winning series of Venice-based mysteries reaches its high water mark, as suave,
determined police commissario Guido Brunetti strives to end a string of violent attacks during
acqua alta, the winter floods that submerge Venice.” (I should note that just after I finished
reading this book the acqua alta floods created mass destruction in this beautiful city, now
becoming a common occurrence – how sad!) “In addition to its taut, intricate plotting, Acqua Alta
boasts poignant eventful daily life. The book also offers fascinating insights into the “real”
This book was the fifth in the series. When I finished the book, I made the following, long pencil
notation on the front endpaper “Read 2019. Book came from ‘Jane Purvis’ auction in 2015 – a
sign of good things. Set in Venice – a city I fell in love with in 2016. The setting is great, and the
mystery matches the setting. Ordered book #1 within 15 minutes of finishing this book #5 in the
Guido Brunetti series”.
I am now halfway through her first book Death at La Fenice and it is truly hard to put down.
The author’s style and use of the language is so great that I often reread a paragraph because it
is so beautifully written. I will have to read fast because since her first book published in 1993,
she has written another 28 in the series with number 30 scheduled for 2020. Where I have been
spacing authors out by at least 5 books I think I may read her books alternating with other
So who is this wonderful writer? She was born in Montclair, NJ in 1943. Leon lived in Venice for
over 30 years and now resides in a small village in Switzerland. She was a lecturer in English
literature for the University of Maryland University College – Europe (UMUC-Europe) in Italy and
then worked as a professor from 1981 to 1999 at the American military base of Vicenza, Italy.
She has stopped teaching and concentrated on writing and other cultural activities in the field of
music (especially baroque music). German television has produced 22 Commissario
Brunetti episodes for broadcast.
Her books are readily available and she does not have a website.
I will end this musing with a quote from Booklist on the back of the dust jacket on Acqua Alta
“Leon isn’t well known in this country (USA), but she should be. She’s a superbly gifted writer
whose stories are complex and filled with charm, humor, and intelligence”