Falling in Love
A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mysteryby Donna Leon
“The ever-incredible Leon’s twenty-fourth stunning entry in her stellar mysteries . . . brings the series full circle.” —Library Journal (starred review)
A New York Times Bestseller
In Death at La Fenice, the first novel in her beloved series, Donna Leon introduced readers to the glamorous and cutthroat world of opera and one of Italy’s finest living sopranos, Flavia Petrelli. Now, in Falling in Love, Flavia has returned to Venice to sing the lead in Tosca. One night after a performance, Flavia finds her dressing room full of yellow roses—too many roses. An anonymous fan has been showering Flavia with gifts in London, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, and now, Venice. Flavia confesses to Brunetti her alarm at these excessive displays of adoration, and when a talented young Venetian singer who has caught Flavia’s attention is savagely attacked, Brunetti begins to think that Flavia’s fears are justified in ways neither of them imagined. He must enter in the psyche of an obsessive fan before Flavia, or anyone else, comes to harm.
“Donna Leon’s first love is opera. . . . So choosing Teatro La Fenice for the setting of Falling in Love, her latest mystery featuring the erudite and oh-so-sympathetic Commissario Guido Brunetti, makes this elegant novel something of a mash note to a longtime lover. . . . The audacious investigation, conducted by Brunetti’s confederate Signorina Elettra, into the psychology of stalkers is thorough and illuminating. But for opera buffs, going backstage at Teatro La Fenice is the real treat.” —Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
“For many fans, the high points in Leon’s beloved Guido Brunetti series have been the two novels featuring opera diva Flavia Petrelli. . . . Now, finally, Flavia returns . . . Best of all, the reappearance of Flavia gives Leon the opportunity to display her deep love of music and to construct a marvelous climactic scene between Flavia and her fan that parallels the finale of Tosca. Brava!” —Bill Ott, Booklist (starred review)
“The ever-incredible Leon’s 24th stunning entry in her stellar mysteries featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti brings the series full circle, revisiting Venice’s Teatro La Fenice. . . . Another provocative addition to a fine series, certain to appeal to aficionados of profound literary mysteries such as Louise Penny’s How the Light Gets In.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Leon’s devoted readers love her books for their juicy mystery plots, and also for the rich and varied cast of recurring characters, among which is the city of Venice itself. . . . Leon’s evildoers are not psychopathic serial killers or rapists. . . . [She] delves into the more interesting territory of moral corruption, in all its forms.” —Patricia Guy, Publishers Weekly (author profile)
“Commissario Guido Brunetti returns to La Fenice for another dramatic encounter with the diva Flavia Petrelli . . . there are the usual pleasures of following Brunetti as he walks around the city he knows like the back of his hand.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Leon . . . infuses even predictable scenes with fresh vitality, employing her subtle wit and psychological acuity to make well-loved characters freshly engaging. . . . [the] finale is engrossing and oddly moving; a fitting end to a Brunetti thriller that is also a rare portrait of an artist and her art.” —Anna Mundow, Barnes & Noble Review
“Leon has accomplished the not inconsiderable task of joining the atmosphere and social realism of noir with the charm and appeal of the traditional mystery. Her portrait of Venice (and Italy in general) is clear eyed about the attractions as well as the sometimes very dark realities of Venetian and Italian life . . . Her plots, which often have a natural quality, as if the author didn’t plan them so much as let them happen, also defy sub-genre classification.” —Glenn Harper, Life Sentence
“Splendid . . . Leon makes us feel [Venice’s] magic, taste it, smell it . . . Falling in Love is altogether a bravura accomplishment.” —Irma Heldman, Open Letters
“Thrilling . . . Readers will not be disappointed. Whether you’ve solved cases with Brunetti from the start or are a first time guest, this book will hold you spellbound . . . . [Falling in Love] will grab you from the first page, keep you on the edge of your seat, and leave you breathless while yearning for more, as if you’ve just witnessed a spectacularly powerful performance at the opera.” —Kate Proffitt, Killer Nashville
“Another entertaining installment in one of mystery fiction’s most consistent series.” —Joe Hartlaub, Bookreporter.com
“[A] widely admired series . . . Brunetti is unfailingly good company, and when he isn’t . . . he is wonderfully refreshing.” —Lloyd Sachs, Chicago Tribune
“[A] captivating series . . . [Falling in Love] offers the usual combination of mystery and dread.” —Jack Batten, Toronto Star
A New York Times Bestseller
A National Indie Bestseller
A Midwest Independent Booksellers Association Indie Bestseller
A Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Bestseller (Trade Paperback Fiction)
Flavia stopped in Campo Santo Stefano and had a pasta at Beccafico, though she paid little attention to what she ate and drank only half of the glass of Teroldego. Less, and she would not sleep; more, and she would not sleep. Then over the bridge, to the left, over the bridge at San Vio, down to the first left, key in the door, and into the cavernous entrance hall of the palazzo.
Flavia paused at the bottom of the stairs, not from tiredness so much as from habit. She played her memory of the first act, found nothing much to criticize. Same with the second. Third, and the young tenor did go a bit wobbly, but he’d had little support from the conductor. Her performance had been good.
Cheered by these thoughts, she started up the steps, appreciating the breadth of the staircase, perhaps created to allow wide-skirted women to pass one another going up and down or to walk arm in arm. She reached the landing and turned right towards the door to the apartment.
Her mouth fell open.
In front of the door lay the largest bouquet of flowers she had ever seen: yellow roses, of course—though why did she think that?—five or six dozen arranged in an enormous glowing mass that, instead of providing the delight such beauty should create, filled Flavia with something close to terror.
1. The scene that opens the novel turns out to be the dramatic finale of Tosca, an opera in which the pursuit and aggressive intimidation of an attractive singer is a major plot point. Does Flavia Petrelli, singing the title role, share any other predicaments or qualities with Floria Tosca?
2. The prima donna‘s work is not over when the curtain falls. How does Flavia Petrelli feel about the fans who await her at the theater doors? Has that feeling changed throughout her career? What has she learned from years of navigating post-show receiving lines?
3. Why do the yellow roses Flavia finds after her performance and at her door fill her with such fear? How does she explain her reaction to Brunetti and his in-laws?
4. “It feels like an old friendship,” Brunetti tells Paola about his relationship with Flavia (p. 59), even while acknowledging they were never friends. (Flavia appeared in two previous novels, Death at La Fenice and Aqua Alta.) What is the nature of their connection? Is there trust, and is it well earned? What frustrates Brunetti about Flavia, and vice versa?
5. What does it take to convince Claudia Griffoni, Brunetti’s colleague, that the young singer Francesca Santello’s assault is connected to Flavia Petrelli? Why is she initially skeptical, and how does she figure out the possible link?
6. When Brunetti suggests to Flavia that her persistent admirer might be a woman, she is dismissive at first. But then she admits that the fans who make her most nervous are women. Why?
7. Flavia tells Brunetti she thinks Venetians are “sad . . . you had all of this, and now all you have is the memory of it” (p. 144). What is behind her characterization, and do you agree with it? What is Brunetti’s retort? Is it convincing?
8. When Brunetti takes the necklace Flavia gives him to Bocchese for fingerprinting, the technician tells him he has a reliable way of appraising the stones. What is it? Why does Bocchese consider it so trustworthy?
9. “Signorina Elettra had, for years, thrived in open violation of many laws” (p. 157), which makes her a particularly effective employee of the Questura. But she makes a crucial error when trying to “circumvent” the penalty that Lieutenant Scarpa doles out to Officer Alvise. What is it? How and why is Brunetti implicated? Was this Scarpa’s calculation or a coincidence? How does Elettra fix the error?
10. “In Tosca,” Flavia tells Brunetti, “all of the policemen are bad” (p. 196). Brunetti assures her that in Venice, “some aren’t.” Would he place his superior, Vice-Questore Patta, in that category? Why? What about Patta’s deputy, Lieutenant Scarpa?
11. When Anne-Sophie Lemieux corners Flavia in the dressing room, how does the singer signal to Brunetti that she’s not alone? Is Flavia successful at protecting herself? How does she ultimately defuse the threat?