American author Donna Leon was born in 1942 in Montclair, New Jersey. After studying in America and Italy she worked as a travel organizer in Rome, as an advertising copy-writer in London, and taught English language and literature at American schools in Switzerland, Iran, China and Saudi Arabia. She also worked for the University of Maryland at the American military base in Vicenza. She was unable to complete her doctorate, as all the notes for her doctoral dissertation on Jane Austen were lost during her escape from the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.
A visit to the Venice opera house, Teatro La Fenice, inspired music enthusiast Donna Leon to write her first crime novel featuring »Commissario Brunetti«. In her debut, »Death at La Fenice« (1992), Commissario Guido Brunetti, who always solves his cases in a rather unusual manner, clears up the mysterious death of a conductor. In »Death in a Strange Country« (1993), Brunetti uncovers machinations involving a toxic waste dump outside Venice while investigating the murder of two American nationals stationed at the American military base in Vicenza. In »The Anonymous Venetian« (1994; also published under the title »Dressed for Death«), a bank director involved in welfare fraud is found brutally murdered. To date, 26 novels have been published in the Brunetti series, in which, apart from solving the specific crime at hand, Donna Leon also draws a genre picture of modern Italian society and addresses topical subjects, such as sex tourism, child abuse, environmental pollution, the treatment of refugees and corruption. She also critically observes the transformation of Venice into a city increasingly focused on only selling tourist baubles and trinkets. At her request, Donna Leon’s books have not been translated into Italian. The scenes in her novels are described realistically and can be retraced on an interactive city map. A collection of Venetian recipes has been published that brings to life the fabulous Venetian meals enjoyed by the Brunetti family (»A Taste of Venice. At Table with Brunetti«, 2010). »The Jewels of Paradise« (2012), published on Donna Leon’s seventieth birthday, is about a Venetian musicologist who tries to solve the mystery surrounding two trunks possibly containing the papers of a baroque composer.
The best-selling novelist, whose works have been translated into more than 35 languages, is the recipient of the German Crime Fiction Award (1997), the Danish Palle Rosenkrantz Prize (2000), the Corine International Literature Prize for fiction (2003), the Premio Pepe Carvallho Prize awarded by the municipal government of Barcelona on the occasion of the crime fiction festival BCNegra. Baroque music – particularly Händel – is her great passion. She is also a fervent supporter of the Il Pomo d’Oro orchestra. Donna Leon lives in Venice and Switzerland.
Donna Leon’s Venice: