Leon has lived in Venice for over 25 years. 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 stopped teaching and concentrated on writing and other cultural activities in the field of music (especially baroque music).
The intelligent and capable police commissioner Guido Brunetti confronts crime in and around his home town of Venice. Each case is an opportunity for the author to reveal another aspect of the seamy underside of society and another aspect of Venetian life. Brunetti serves the vain and self-serving buffoon, Vice-Questore Patta, while Sergente (later Ispettore) Vianello and the all-knowing and well-connected Signorina Elettra, Patta's secretary, assist Brunetti on the ground and through research.
During a performance of La Traviata at La Fenice opera house the distinguished German conductor is found dead, apparently poisoned by a cup of coffee. Brunetti embarks on a voyage of exploration in the often murky world both of opera and the victim's family, eventually unearthing a surprising conclusion.
Brunetti confronts a grisly sight when the body of a young American is fished out of a fetid Venetian canal. Though all the signs point to a violent mugging, something incriminating turns up in the victim's apartment that suggests the existence of a high-level conspiracy.
The Anonymous Venetian (1994) aka Dressed for Death
Brunetti's hopes of a refreshing family holiday in the mountains are dashed when a gruesome discovery is made in Marghera - a body so badly beaten that the face is completely unrecognizable. But when the victim's identity is revealed, the investigation takes a very unexpected turn.
A Venetian Reckoning (1995) aka Death and Judgment
A truck crashes on one of the treacherous mountain roads in the Italian Dolomites, spilling a terrible cargo. Meanwhile, a prominent international lawyer is found dead in the carriage of an intercity train at Santa Lucia. Can the two tragedies possibly be connected? Commissario Guido Brunetti digs deep into the secret lives of Italy's elite classes to find the answer.
Acqua Alta (1996) aka Death in High Water
As Venice braces for a winter tempest and the onslaught of acqua alta - the rising waters from torrential rain - Commissario Guido Brunetti finds out that an old friend has been savagely beaten at the palazzo home of reigning diva Flavia Petrelli
The Death of Faith (1997) aka Quietly in Their Sleep
Brunetti comes to the aid of a young nursing sister who is leaving her convent following the unexpected death of five patients. At first, Brunetti's inquiries reveal nothing amiss, and he wonders whether the nun is simply creating a smoke screen to justify abandoning her vocation. But perhaps, she has stumbled onto something very real and very sinister - something that puts her life in imminent danger.
A Noble Radiance (1997)
The new owner of a farmhouse at the foot of the Italian Dolomites is summoned to the house when his workmen disturb a macabre grave. Once on the job, Brunetti uncovers a clue that reignites an infamous cold case of kidnapping and disappearance involving one of Venice's oldest, most aristocratic families.
Fatal Remedies (1999)
For Commissario Brunetti, it began with an early morning phone call. In the chill of the Venetian dawn, a sudden act of vandalism shatters the quiet of the deserted city. But Brunetti is soon shocked to find that the culprit waiting to be apprehended at the scene is someone from his own family. Meanwhile, he is under pressure from his superiors at work to solve a daring robbery with a link to a suspicious accidental death. Does it all lead back to the Mafia? And how are his family's actions connected to these crimes?
Friends in High Places (2000)
Commissario Brunetti is visited by a young bureaucrat investigating the lack of official approval for the construction of Brunetti's apartment years before. What began as a red tape headache ends in murder when the bureaucrat is later found dead after a mysterious fall from a scaffold.
A Sea of Troubles (2001)
The murder of two clam fishermen off the island of Pellestrina, south of the Lido on the Venetian lagoon, draws Commissario Brunetti into the island's close-knit community, bound together by a code of loyalty and a suspicion of outsiders. When Signorina Elettra volunteers to visit the island, where she has relatives, Brunetti finds himself torn between his duty to solve the murders, concerns for Elettra's safety, and his not entirely straightforward feelings for her.
Willful Behaviour (2002)
When one of his wife Paola's students comes to visit him with an interest in investigating the possibility of a pardon for a crime committed by her grandfather many years ago, Commissario Brunetti thinks little of it, beyond being intrigued and attracted by the girl's intelligence and moral seriousness. But when she is found stabbed to death, Claudia Leonardo is suddenly no longer simply Paola's student, but Brunetti's case.
Uniform Justice (2003)
Brunetti faces an unsettling case when a young cadet has been found hanged, a presumed suicide, in Venice's elite military academy. As he pursues his inquiry, he is faced with a wall of silence and finds himself caught up in the strange and stormy politics of his country's powerful elite.
Doctored Evidence (2004)
A wealthy elderly woman is murdered. Soon after her Romanian maid was hit by a train while trying to leave Italy with a large amount of money and forged papers. The case appears to be solved. Then a neighbour provides evidence that the maid was not guilty of the murder. Brunetti digs further into the case, though officially it is closed and finds that greed was not the motive behind the killing.
Blood from a Stone (2005)
Shortly before Christmas, a man is killed in Venice's Campo Santo Stefano. An illegal immigrant from Senegal, he is one of the vu' cumprà who sell fake fashion accessories while trying to stay ahead of the law. At first, the crime seems like a simple clash between rival vendors, but as Commissario Guido Brunetti probes more deeply, he begins to suspect that this murder was the work of a professional. And why does his boss want him off the case?
Through a Glass, Darkly (2006)
When the body of a night watchman is found in front of a blazing furnace at De Cal's glass factory along with an annotated copy of Dante's Inferno, Brunetti must investigate. Does the book contain the clues Brunetti needs to solve the murder and uncover who is ruining the waters of Venice's lagoon?
Suffer the Little Children (2007)
One night a group of men break into the apartment of a pediatrician and his wife, violently assaulting the doctor and terrifying his wife and baby. They claim to be Carabinieri. Brunetti investigates and is drawn into a murky world of unethical medical practice, corruption and babies for sale to those with the money.
The Girl of His Dreams (2008)
One rainy morning Commissario Brunetti and Ispettore Vianello respond to an emergency call reporting a body floating near some steps on the Grand Canal. Reaching down to pull it out, Brunetti’s wrist is caught by the silkiness of golden hair, and he sees a small foot – together he and Vianello lift a dead girl from the water.
About Face (2009)
A Question of Belief (2010)
Drawing Conclusions (2011)
Beastly Things (2012)
"One of the hazards facing the writer of serial mysteries is the plain fact that detectives, like everyone else, grow old. Donna Leon, whose Beastly Things is her 20th mystery novel in as many years featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, faces her detective’s accumulating years head on as he investigates yet another mysterious and watery death in his beloved Venice."
^Marder, Dianna. "This case is culinary: Commissario's favorites", The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 8, 2010. Accessed July 25, 2011. "Some 25 years ago, an English teacher and opera expert originally from Montclair, N.J., felt the lure of the lagoons and adopted Venice as her home. Now Donna Leon, 67, is the celebrated author of 19 international best sellers (more than two million sold) featuring a shrewd but principled police detective by the name of Guido Brunetti - and she is finally rewarding her readers with a cookbook of his favorite recipes."