Below you will find a synopsis for each and everyone of Donna Leon Brunetti novels in chronological order, starting with the newest.
Guido Brunetti is a Venetian through and through and the Commissario Brunetti books are all set in Venice, Italy with a few developments in places such as the Dolomite mountains or inland Mestre, but they are the exceptions.
The detailed portrait of Venice and Venetian society makes this wildly popular crime series unique and charming. Not for nothing did Donna Leon live thirty years in Venice, she speaks fluent Italian and understands the Venetian language.
Our hero, Inspector Brunetti, is principled, honest and shrewd. He is also well read and like her creator Donna Leon, he likes to read the ancient Romans and Greeks in his spare time. He is happily married to aristocratic Paola and has two children. Sometimes Italian bureaucracy discourages him but his sense of duty always prevails and he continues chasing criminals all over Venice, Italy.
Where to Start Reading Inspector Brunetti Books?
Some readers unfamiliar with the Donna Leon Guido Brunetti series ask if you have to read the novels in chronological order. You may if you like, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
Although the hero and the main characters are the same in all Inspector Brunetti books, the plot of each novel is independent of each other and you don’t need to have read the previous book to understand the next one.
Donna Leon Brunetti Novels in Order
|28. Unto Us a Son Is Given by Donna Leon
All of a sudden, an elderly friend of Brunetti’s father-in-law drops dead in a Venice street. He wanted to adopt a young man that would inherit all his fortune, something his friends find sheer madness. The tragedy doesn’t stop with this suspicious death. There is a terrible murder, an strangulation in a hotel room. Commissario Brunetti digs deep into the life of the first dead, Gonzalo Rodríguez de Tejada and he untangles a long-buried mystery that may have brought about the murder.
|27. The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon
Commissario Guido Brunetti is shocked by the sensitive information leaking from the Venetian Questura and he is the one entrusted with the job of discovering which one of his colleagues is to blame. But before he can even start inquiring a friend of his wife surprises him with a visit. She is terribly fearful her son is taking drugs and urges Inspector Brunetti to intervene. Weeks later, the woman’s husband is found unconscious at the foot of a Venetian bridge with a severe brain injury. Brunetti can’t help but follow some leads through Venice’s underworld that might connect the accident to the boy’s ways.
|26. Earthly Remains by Donna Leon
Commissario Guido Brunetti is so stressed that he really needs a break. He goes to a villa from a wealthy relative on the island of Sant’Erasmo. Everything seems perfect and peaceful and he spends the days rowing with Davide Casati, the villa caretaker, and the evenings reading Pliny’s Natural History. Casati is worried about the bee colonies, he feels something is wrong but he doesn’t know exactly what. After an unexpected storm, he vanishes and nobody knows where he is, not even the woman he had been secretly seeing. Now Brunetti feels he must investigate the disappearance of his new friend and in the process, he unmasks secret cover-ups and obscure memories.
|25. The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon
Fifteen years ago an alcoholic saved a young girl from drowning in a Venetian canal. Unfortunately, it was too late as the girl had already suffered irreversible brain damage. The man claimed he saw someone throwing her into the canal, but the next day he didn’t remember anything at all. Commissario Brunetti meets the girl’s grandmother, Contessa Lando-Continui, at a charity dinner. The Contessa never believed it was an accident and implores Brunetti to find the perpetrator that so cruelly ruined Manuela’s life. He doubts he can do something about it but he agrees to reopen the case partly out of pity and as a favor to the long-suffering grandmother. Soon he is deeply involved in the investigation and uncovers a clouded story and a gloomy past that doesn’t allow him to let the case rest… if there is a case!
|24. Falling in Love by Donna Leon
Flavia Petrelli, the glamorous soprano that appeared in Donna Leon’s first novel as a murder suspect returns to Venice to sing Tosca in La Fenice and Inspector Brunetti has tickets to attend her performance with his wife Paola. One evening Flavia and Brunetti meet at the palazzo of his in-laws and she admits her apprehension at the multitude of flowers she receives from an anonymous fan. Wherever she sings in the world, her dressing room is inundated with yellow roses. Commissario Brunetti promises to make inquiries and after a brutal attack against a young Venetian singer he has no doubt that Flavia is in real danger, perhaps from an obsessive fan…
|23. By its Cover by Donna Leon
Inspired by the devastating, real-life looting of the Neapolitan Girolamini Library in southern Italy, in this Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery the central theme is rare books. One day Brunetti gets a desperate call from the director of a celebrated Venetian library to report that someone has been cutting out pages of priceless books. Inspector Brunetti suspects a mysterious American Professor that has already run away and it soon becomes clear that his identity was false. The suspects proliferate and when an apparently harmless ex-priest that was a regular of the library is found murdered Brunetti immerses himself into the dark black market of rare books.
|22. The Golden Egg by Donna Leon
Good-hearted Paola Brunetti finds out that a disabled man with the mental age of a kid that helped out at their dry cleaners had died of an apparently accidental overdose of sleeping pills. Paola is very upset by the news and urges her husband to get to the bottom of the man’s death. Commissario Brunetti is astonished to find absolutely nothing whatsoever about the man. No birth certificate, nothing at all. It is as if he never existed. When questioned, the man’s mother is angry but inconsistent and Inspector Brunetti feels there is a lot she is not telling. Why would anyone want to kill such a harmless man? An aristocratic family might have something to do with the case and the past is ghastly…
|21. Beastly Things by Donna Leon
Commissario Guido Brunetti finally discovers that the man whose body appeared floating in a Venetian canal with three knife wounds in his back and no identification whatsoever moonlighted as the inspector for a local slaughterhouse. He was a veterinarian, very kind with animals, so what was he doing in a slaughterhouse? The man suffered from a rare, disfiguring condition says the coroner. Inspector Brunetti finds out that the dead man wasn’t from Venice but from a nearby inland town outside Brunetti’s regular area of activity. The slaughterhouse and the wicked things going on there are the key to solving this murder that shouts corruption.
|20. Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon
In this commissario Brunetti novel, the Venetian detective investigates the death of a woman that apparently died of a heart attack in her modest apartment. But there are traces of bruises around the neck and Inspector Brunetti can’t help feeling that something must have triggered the fulminating attack. The widow volunteered in a nursing home and provided shelter to victims of abuse. What’s suspicious about that? As he starts making inquiries Brunetti discovers a secret society that helps battered women. He also uncovers deceptions, lies, and a huge case of fraud…