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The Anonymous Venetian (1994)

by Donna Leon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Commissario Brunetti (3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,611508,404 (3.71)137
Commissario Guido Brunetti's hopes for a refreshing family holiday in the mountains are once again dashed when a gruesome discovery is made in Marghera-a body so badly beaten the face is completely unrecognizable. Brunetti searches Venice for someone who can identify the corpse but is met with a wall of silence. He then receives a telephone call from a contact who promises some tantalizing information. And before night is out, Brunetti is confronting yet another appalling, and apparently senseless, death.… (more)

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» See also 137 mentions

English (44)  German (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (50)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
The Curious Banker
Review of the Blackstone Audio audiobook edition (August 2009) of the Harper Collins hardcover original (June 1994)

I am continuing to enjoy the Brunetti series, especially for the Venice atmosphere created by writer Donna Leon, who lived in the city for 30 years until retiring recently to a small village in Switzerland. Dressed for Death finds Brunetti investigating the murder of a man found dressed as a woman. The clues seem to lead to the transvestite community, but Brunetti begins to suspect that there is something else behind the initial obfuscation.

Dressed for Death was good as a police procedural, but I definitely missed the participation of Brunetti's wife Paula and children Chiara and Rafaelli who are off on vacation during most of the book. This meant that the Brunetti home life and interaction which is the real heart of the series was missing. One curiousity occurred when Brunetti went home to cook a solo meal and takes the trouble to make a fresh tomato sauce for only a single meal of pasta. On the plus side, this 3rd book introduces the character of Signorina Elettra Zorzi, the secretary to Brunetti's nemesis, Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta. Signorina Elettra becomes a mainstay of the series and Brunetti's regular aid when he needs assistance with computers and/or hacking databases.

The narration by David Colacci in the audiobook edition was fine. Colacci is the regular English language narrator for the series, except for The Golden Egg #22 which is narrated by David Rintoul. 17 of the current 30 books are available for free on Audible Plus.

See photograph at https://m.media-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BZjVjOWNjY2QtNzljZS00ZDAxLTg5NzEtMjQ1NmJj...
Actor Karl Fischer as Sergente Lorenzo Vianello and actor Joachim Król as Commissario Guido Brunetti enjoying a tea break in Venice, Italy in a film still from the German television adaptation of "Dressed for Death" (2000). Image sourced from IMDB.

Trivia and Links
There is a really fascinating interview with author Donna Leon at ItalianMysteries.Com even if it was done 18 years ago. She discusses all sorts of background to the books and characters and also gives the reason that she won't allow the books to be translated into Italian (and it wasn't because she feared criticism by her neighbours in Venice).

Although it was the 3rd book, Dressed for Death was filmed as the 2nd episode "Venezianische Scharade" (Venetian Charade) (2000) of the German language TV series (2000-2019) based on the Donna Leon / Commissario Brunetti series. I was unable to locate a trailer or a copy of the episode.

An English language summary of the German language Commissario Brunetti TV series is available at Fictional Cities (Spoilers Obviously). The 2nd episode is titled "The Anonymous Venetian" here for some reason. As explained in the above interview, the TV-series was a German production as the books took off in popularity the most in the German speaking countries of Europe as Leon's publishing agent was Swiss-German and knew that market the best. ( )
  alanteder | Oct 11, 2021 |
Back to reading the early books from the series. The story sounded familiar but I was not sure if I had read it before or had seen an episode based on it - I discovered Brunetti via the German series, not via the books. As it turns out, I've read the book in 2012 so there were flashes of "oh, I know where this is going" but not enough to spoil the pleasure of the novel.

It is a hot summer, everyone is on vacation so when a body is found next to a slaughter house in Mestre, Brunetti is sent to investigate. Meanwhile in the Questura in Venice, Patta is in a bad mood - not only his wife left him but she left him for a man who everyone knows - and not in a good way. And while Patta is trying to find a way to discredit the lover, Brunetti's vacation need to be delayed and/or cancelled - a murder takes priority.

Except that almost noone wants to really work the case - the man was dresses as a woman so everyone is ready to just call it an unfortunate incident and move on - transvestites are making Italian men uncomfortable, transvestite whores make things even worse. Even Guido has some weird thoughts, voiced only at home to Paula - which as usual serves to make him reexamine his thoughts.

The deeper Brunetti digs, the more it starts looking like the case is not as straight-forward as it appeared to be - things do not add up. And this is where I have no idea how much of what was getting obvious comes from how Leon wrote the story and how much was my memory serving me snippets from 9 years ago. A murder getting tied to corruption is nothing new in this series so I was not surprised that this is where the story went - if anything, this is a lot more likely in Leon's Venice than anything else.

And this is the novel where Signorina Elettra Zorzi makes her first appearance. The later novels cannot exist without her so her being the new character was a bit unusual. She is a lot more muted than in later novels but she still shows her ability to find information.

The end got me - I definitely did not remember the very end of the novel. I did not expect it - the novel looked finished and yet, it fits perfectly.

Another good entry in the series - and I am happy I revisited it. ( )
  AnnieMod | Aug 30, 2021 |
Commissario Guido Brunetti and his family are set to go on a vacation in the mountains, to get away from the heat and humidity Venice is experiencing. When an expensive, fire engine red high heel is found in an abandoned field, next to the abattoir, plans change. The family will go on, but Brunetti will not. A body was found near that shoe.

The body is dressed in a bright red dress and lacy underwear and there is no identification. Whores work this area and that is the first thought. Things change a bit, when the body is found to be male. Is it a transvestite? And why the brutality of the murder?

Brunetti finds himself in a world where things may not always be what is seen. Secrets are the norm and people don’t give up information easily. Brunetti makes contact with a source of possible information, only to find another murder when he arrives at the meeting.

Threads tied to financial dealings, players in the upper levels of society and the legal world — all players with a lot to lose if their secrets become known.

I enjoy this series. Brunetti is one who looks for little things for the details. He thinks about how things could be related and doesn’t just rush to the solution. ( )
  ChazziFrazz | Jul 30, 2021 |
I am really enjoying the Brunetti series. Though they are technically crime novels, Commissario Brunetti is quite fun to follow around his home city of Venice. Leon also describes in detail what Guido and his wife Paola are eating for nearly every meal. If you like food, Italy, or just a good read, this might be the series for you. ( )
  loretteirene | Dec 17, 2020 |
A murder victim is initially identified as a transvestite whore. As Brunetti investigates he begins to wonder if things aren't what they seem.
The investigation focuses on possible misuse of a charitable organization and calls on Brunetti to act the tough cop more then in past stories. Leon kept this reader guessing maintaining a good level of suspense while still sharing a visit to Venice with the reader. ( )
  waldhaus1 | Jul 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leon, Donnaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Björklund, Ing-BrittTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Colacci, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elsink, FransTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elwenspoek, Monikasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fuente, Ana María de laTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rooijen, Lucie vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Awards and honors
Ah forse adesso
Sul morir mio delusa
Priva d'ogni speranza, e di consiglio
Lagrime di dolor versa dal ciglio.
Ah, perhaps already
Deceived by my death
Deprived of every hope and counsel
Tears of pain flow from her eyes.
--Mozart, Lucio Silla
To the memory of Arleen Auger
a perished sun
First words
The shoe was red, the red of London phone booths, New York fire engines, although these were not images that came to the man who first saw the shoe.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Pubished as The Anonymous Venetian and as Dressed for Death.
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Commissario Guido Brunetti's hopes for a refreshing family holiday in the mountains are once again dashed when a gruesome discovery is made in Marghera-a body so badly beaten the face is completely unrecognizable. Brunetti searches Venice for someone who can identify the corpse but is met with a wall of silence. He then receives a telephone call from a contact who promises some tantalizing information. And before night is out, Brunetti is confronting yet another appalling, and apparently senseless, death.

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