Donna Leon

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Donna Leon (2010) Donna Leon Signature.svg
Donna Leon at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2016

Donna Leon [ ˈdɒnə ˈliːɒn ] ( listen ? / I ) (born September 28, 1942 in Montclair , New Jersey ) is an American writer . The author is known for her detective novels with the Venetian policeman Commissario Guido Brunetti as the protagonist . Audio file / audio sample  


The Teatro La Fenice , the setting for her debut novel

The writer of detective novels only stays temporarily in Venice, her former place of residence; she has lived in Val Müstair in Graubünden in Switzerland since 2007 . She has applied for Swiss citizenship . After studying in her home country and further in Siena and Perugia , she taught English and English literature . She then worked as a travel companion in Rome and as a copywriter in London. She later taught at American schools in Switzerland, Iran (until 1979), China and for nine months in Saudi Arabia . From 1981 to 1995 she worked at the University of Maryland Field Office at the Vicenza Air Force Base .

She was unable to complete her dissertation on Jane Austen because the draft, books and all of the notes she had worked on for five years were lost in 1979 while fleeing the Islamic revolution in Iran .

“This is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life. If I hadn't lost the concept, I would have finished my doctoral thesis and spent my life as an academic. "

- Donna Leon in an interview with the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung

The idea for her first book came to her in 1992 while attending the opera at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. During a conversation with the conductor Gabriele Ferro and his wife, anecdotes and gossip about the late star conductor Herbert von Karajan and his death were exchanged.

“I thought it was an interesting way to start a detective novel. And then I thought I'd write one. "

- Donna Leon in an interview with the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung

This resulted in her debut novel Venetian Finale with investigator Guido Brunetti, who in the first case clarifies the death of the German star conductor Helmut Wellauer. The novel was published in 1992 by Random House in New York under the title Death at La Fenice , and the German translation was published in 1993 by Diogenes Verlag . Since then, Leon has been a bestselling author in Germany . The Brunetti novels, which appear annually, often top the German bestseller lists in June / July. They have been translated into 35 languages ​​and published in numerous countries. At her request, however, they do not appear in Italian, so that the Venetians, from whom she has her stories and suggestions, continue to deal with her with an open mind and because she wanted to lead a normal life in Venice without being recognized.

In 2003, Donna Leon received the Corine international book award in the fiction category , among others, from the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (Landesverband Bayern), the Bavarian State Chancellery and the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation . Her passion is baroque opera , which is why she visits almost every important production in Europe. She particularly values ​​the works of the composer Georg Friedrich Handel .

The Brunetti novels

The protagonist in Donna Leon's crime novels is the cultivated and humble Venetian commissioner Guido Brunetti. His wife Paola is the daughter of a count from the Falier family , one of the oldest, wealthiest and most influential families in Venice. She works - as the author Donna Leon herself did earlier - as a professor of English literature and is inspired by the spirit of the 1968 movement . Paola Brunetti received her PhD on a subject related to Henry James . The children who grow up together, Raffaele and Chiara, develop a philanthropic enthusiasm in the novels, which contrasts with the corrupt and cruel world of crime.

Paola and the children have a close relationship with their in-laws. In contrast, Guido's relationship with his father-in-law Orazio Falier is rather stiff. Nevertheless, the Conte is an important informant for him when it comes to the social, business and political backgrounds of the city.

The comic character of the novels is Brunetti's superior Vice Questore Giuseppe Patta. The clumsy, vain and opportunistic police chief of Venice is Sicilian and usually disagrees with Brunetti. His biggest concern with reported deaths is the damage to the city's image and tourism. In suspicious cases he would therefore prefer to suppress further investigations by Brunetti and only rarely does he show himself understanding when Brunetti has finally cleared up the case. Other main characters are the loyal and environmentally conscious sergeant Lorenzo Vianello (since the eleventh novel Ispettore and with Brunetti per Du) and Vice Questore Patta's modern and attractive secretary Elettra Zorzi. Signorina Elettra is also a computer specialist and often brings Brunetti into conflict of conscience with often questionable research . However, Brunetti is often reliant on the information obtained outside of legal channels.

The police officers Tenente Scarpa, Sergente Alvise and Sergente Riverre appear as a further counterpoint to these characters , who, despite their own limitations, a tendency to be dependent on regulations and occasional over-zeal, enjoy a certain appreciation on the part of the Vice Questore. Donna Leon regularly points out in her novels that Scarpa, like Patta, is Sicilian and is therefore not liked by Brunetti, Vianello and Elettra.

Other characters who regularly appear in the novels are the forensic doctor Ettore Rizzardi - a quiet contemporary who is always elegantly dressed and has a penchant for eloquent prose in his autopsy reports - as well as the boatmen Bonsuan (up to the tenth case in which he was murdered) and Foa (from case 11), who regularly take Brunetti with the Questura police boat not only to the investigation sites, but occasionally also to private destinations.

Brunetti always finds the perpetrator and his backers, but they usually get away with it because they have an extensive network of relationships. Sometimes the perpetrator cannot be punished either because clever legal maneuvers make him insane. The act prosecuted by the police is often only a decorative framework for describing the city of Venice and its inhabitants. Through a detailed study of the city, Donna Leon succeeds in capturing the mood of Venice at different times of the year and in different places. The protagonists often express themselves very negatively about the increasing tourism in Venice and the associated globalization of the city.

Donna Leon includes current topics in her novels that are discussed in the newspapers: bribery in authorities, environmental scandals, drug sales to young people, dealing with asylum seekers, sex tourism or the sexual abuse of children. She also takes a critical look at the way Venice is increasingly changing to the detriment of the locals, e.g. B. the shopping situation. Shops for people's daily needs are disappearing, such as bakeries or shoemakers. They are being replaced by shops that sell things like masks or plastic gondolas for tourists that no Venetian needs.

Questura in Venice, the workplace of Commissario Brunetti

Donna Leon describes Venice in her novels in such detail that all locations can be traced with the help of a city map. In the meantime, a city map and a board game have been published which have the locations of the Brunetti novels as their theme. The Brunettis live in a spacious apartment near the San Polo Church . It is located on the fourth floor and has a large roof terrace. Venetian cuisine is also a topic again and again, with Paola Brunetti mostly cooking himself and eating on the roof terrace at home. Thanks to the recipe collection at the Brunetti's guests , Paola Brunetti's three-course menus can even be cooked. The roof terrace of your apartment is located at the confluence of the Grand Canal and the Rio di San Polo. On the other side of the Rio, the view falls on the terrace of the Palazzo Barbarigo della Terrazza .

Awards for the Brunetti novels


The Brunetti novels

The German book editions were all published by Diogenes Verlag in Zurich , first as a hardcover, then as a paperback (detebe).

  1. Venetian finale . Commissario Brunetti's first case. Diogenes, Zurich 1993, ISBN 3-257-22780-9 (English: Death at La Fenice . 1992. Translated by Monika Elwenspoek).
  2. Venice terminus . Commissario Brunetti's second case. Diogenes, Zurich 1995, ISBN 3-257-22936-4 (English: Death in a Strange Country . 1993.).
  3. Venetian charade . Commissario Brunetti's third case. Diogenes, Zurich 1996, ISBN 3-257-22990-9 (English: The Anonymous Venetian . 1994. US title: Dressed for Death ).
  4. Vendetta . Commissario Brunetti's fourth case. Diogenes, Zurich 1997, ISBN 3-257-23100-8 (English: A Venetian Reckoning . 1995. US title: Death and Judgment ).
  5. Acqua Alta . Commissario Brunetti's fifth case. Diogenes, Zurich 1997, ISBN 3-257-23118-0 (English: Acqua Alta . 1996.).
  6. Fall asleep gently . Commissario Brunetti's sixth case. Diogenes, Zurich 1998, ISBN 3-257-23139-3 (English: The Death of Faith . 1997. US title: Quietly in Their Sleep ). ( Number 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from June 29 to October 11 and from October 19 to 25, 1998 )
  7. Nobiltà . Commissario Brunetti's seventh case. Diogenes, Zurich 1999, ISBN 3-257-23260-8 (English: A Noble Radiance . 1998.). ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from August 2 to September 26, 1999 )
  8. Regarding Signora Brunetti . The eighth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2000, ISBN 3-257-23311-6 (English: Fatal Remedies . 1999.).
  9. Fine friends . Commissario Brunetti's ninth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2001, ISBN 3-257-23339-6 (English: Friends in High Places . 2000.).
  10. The law of the lagoon . Commissario Brunetti's tenth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2002, ISBN 3-257-23379-5 (English: A Sea of ​​Troubles . 2001.). ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from June 3 to July 7, 2002 )
  11. The dark hour of the Serenissima . Commissario Brunetti's eleventh case. Diogenes, Zurich 2003, ISBN 3-257-23448-1 (English: Wilful Behavior . 2002.). ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from June 9th to 15th, 2003 )
  12. Secret channels . Commissario Brunetti's twelfth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2004, ISBN 3-257-23523-2 (English: Uniform Justice . 2003.). ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from May 10th to June 27th, 2004 )
  13. Prove it's evil . Commissario Brunetti's thirteenth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-257-23581-X (English: Doctored Evidence . 2004.). ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from June 13th to 26th, 2005 )
  14. Bloody stones . Commissario Brunetti's fourteenth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2006, ISBN 3-257-23665-4 (English: Blood from a Stone . 2005.). ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from June 5 to July 2, 2006 )
  15. Like through a dark glass . Commissario Brunetti's fifteenth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-257-23786-3 (English: Through a Glass, Darkly . 2006.). ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from June 4 to July 8, 2007 )
  16. Let the children come to me . Commissario Brunetti's sixteenth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2008, ISBN 978-3-257-24011-5 (English: Suffer the Little Children . 2007.).
  17. The girl of his dreams . Commissario Brunetti's seventeenth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2009, ISBN 978-3-257-24057-3 (English: The Girl of His Dreams . 2008.). ( Number 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from June 8th to 14th, 2009 )
  18. Nice appearance . Commissario Brunetti's eighteenth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2010, ISBN 978-3-257-24098-6 (English: About Face . 2009.).
  19. In good faith . Commissario Brunetti's nineteenth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2011, ISBN 978-3-257-24204-1 (English: A Question of Belief . 2010.). ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from June 6th to 12th, 2011 )
  20. Rich heritage . Commissario Brunetti's twentieth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2012, ISBN 978-3-257-06820-7 (English: Drawing Conclusions . 2011.).
  21. Animal profits . Commissario Brunetti's twenty-first case. Diogenes, Zurich 2013, ISBN 978-3-257-06858-0 (English: Beastly Things . 2012.).
  22. The golden egg . Commissario Brunetti's twenty-second case. Diogenes, Zurich 2014, ISBN 978-3-257-06891-7 (English: The Golden Egg . 2013.). ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from June 9th to July 24th, 2014 )
  23. Death between the lines . Commissario Brunetti's twenty-third case. Diogenes, Zurich 2015, ISBN 978-3-257-06929-7 (English: By its cover . 2014.). ( 1st place on the Spiegel bestseller list from May 30th to June 19th, 2015 )
  24. Finally mine . Commissario Brunetti's twenty-fourth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2015, ISBN 978-3-257-06943-3 (English: Falling in Love . 2015.).
  25. Eternal youth . Commissario Brunetti's twenty-fifth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2016, ISBN 978-3-257-06969-3 (English: The Waters of Eternal Youth . 2016.). ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from June 4 to July 8, 2016 )
  26. Still water . Commissario Brunetti's twenty-sixth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2017, ISBN 978-3-257-06988-4 (English: Earthly Remains . 2017.). ( 1st place on the Spiegel bestseller list from June 3 to June 9, 2017 )
  27. Secret temptation . Commissario Brunetti's twenty-seventh case. Diogenes, Zurich 2018, ISBN 978-3-257-07019-4 (English: The Temptation of Forgiveness . 2018.).
  28. A son is given to us . Commissario Brunetti's twenty-eighth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2019, ISBN 978-3-257-07060-6 (English: Unto Us a Son Is Given . 2019.).
  29. Secret sources . Commissario Brunetti's twenty-ninth case. Diogenes, Zurich 2020, ISBN 978-3-257-07099-6 (English: Trace Elements . 2019.).

more publishments

In addition, a number of audio books on CD and cassette (radio plays and readings) and DVDs (films) were produced.

TV and radio adaptations

Most of her novels were filmed for television and staged as radio plays for radio.


  • Katharina Holtmann: On the trail of Donna Leon's novels . Books & Friends. Essen 2006, ISBN 3-9810996-1-3 .
  • Toni Sepeda: Through Venice with Brunetti . Diogenes, Zurich 2008, ISBN 978-3-257-06670-8 .
  • Elisabeth Hoffmann, Karl-L. Heinrich: In the footsteps of Commissario Brunetti. A small compendium for those looking for traces . Harms, Lindhöft 2011, ISBN 978-3-86026-192-7 (with a separate city map (describes around 150 of the most important scenes from the crime novels up to and including "Reiches Erbe")).

Web links

Commons : Donna Leon  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Donna Leon. In: Diogenes Verlag AG, accessed on March 11, 2020 .
  2. Martina Kammermann: “I share Swiss values”. In: Schweizer Familie , July 30, 2020.
  3. a b c Herlinde Koelbl: The secret revenge of the powerless. Interview. In: Zeit-Magazin No. 46. November 8, 2012, p. 70 , accessed on March 8, 2018 .
  4. a b c d Interview with Donna Leon: The best thing that has ever happened to me . (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on January 11, 2014 ; accessed on January 11, 2014 .
  5. Murder in Venice. In: Der Spiegel 22/1996. May 27, 1996, accessed March 8, 2018 .
  6. Walter Mayr: To die in beauty. In: SPIEGEL 37/2013. September 9, 2013, p. 97 , accessed March 8, 2018 .
  7. Murder on the Grand Canal - Donna Leon and Venice in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  8. a b Murder on the Grand Canal - Donna Leon and Venice ( Memento from March 31, 2001 in the Internet Archive ), ZDF, November 24, 2000
  9. ^ ZDF press release: Best-selling author Donna Leon as a travel guide exclusively on ZDF. Start of the new literature series "RomanWelten". In: November 24, 2000, accessed March 8, 2018 .
  10. Murder on the Grand Canal. Donna Leon and Venice. In: November 26, 2000, accessed March 8, 2018 .
  11. Interview with Donna Leon. In: May 5, 2003, accessed March 8, 2018 (English, Exclusive Interview with Donna Leon).
  12. "To hear Handel for two hours is the greatest." (Der Spiegel No. 19, May 7, 2001, p. 200)
  13. Donna Leon: Venizian Finale. Diogenes, Zurich 1995, p. 64.
  14. I don't want to be a celebrity. Interview with Donna Leon. In: Focus. July 13, 2006, accessed March 8, 2018 .
  15. ^ Map with the locations of all Brunetti novels. In: Retrieved March 8, 2018 (Links (on Donna Leon's page at Venice city map on Google Maps).
  16. These artists receive the BZ Culture Prize 2018 on
  17. ^ Publisher page for the book (23). In: Retrieved March 8, 2018 .
  18. ^ Publisher page for the book (24). In: Retrieved March 8, 2018 .
  19. ^ Publisher page for the book (25). In: Retrieved March 8, 2018 .
  20. ^ Publisher page for the book (26). In: Retrieved March 8, 2018 .
  21. ^ Publisher page for the book (27). In: Retrieved March 8, 2018 .
  22. ^ Publisher's page for the book (28). In: Retrieved June 14, 2019 .
  23. ^ Diogenes Verlag - Geheime Quellen (29) Leon, Donna. In: Accessed May 31, 2020 .