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7 top crime novels set in Venice

The storied streets of Venice have long served as a backdrop for crime novels, including modern thrillers and timeless classics alike. To celebrate the film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s A Haunting in Venice, which is out on 15 September, we have rounded up the best crime books set in the City of Canals.

Best crime books set in Venice

Death at la Fenice by Donna Leon

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

The first in Donna Leon’s popular Commissario Guido Brunetti series, Death at La Fenice opens with the death of a world-renowned conductor at an iconic Italian opera house. Set against a vivid and atmospheric backcloth of Venice, Brunetti is left to delve into the world of high culture and vendettas, where he uncovers a web of secrets, rivalries, and betrayals.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

A classic psychological thriller made famous by its film adaptation, The Talented Mr Ripley follows Tom’s journey from a small-time con artist to master manipulator and murderer. Set between New York, Naples, Rome and Venice, Highsmith’s writing explores the intricacies of identity, morality, and obsession, and creates a chilling and morally ambiguous narrative that has captivated readers for decades.

The Venice Train by Georges Simenon

The Venice Train by Georges Simenon

In The Venice Train we meet a man who agrees to help a stranger out by picking up a package for him at a Swiss train station. What follows is web of intrigue and crime, interspersed with vivid descriptions and a pacy plot. This novel takes readers on a thrilling journey through the picturesque streets of Italy’s most captivating city.

The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins

The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins

A classic Victorian-era ghost story set in a mysterious and cursed hotel in Venice, The Haunted Hotel revolves around the tragic story of the beautiful and enigmatic Countess Narona, who marries an English nobleman. An engrossing, unputdownable read, Wilkie Collins weaves a tale of mysterious deaths and sinister pasts filled with unexpected twists that is rich with suspense and strange, macabre events.

Alibi by Joseph Kanon

Alibi by Joseph Kanon

A gripping page-turner filled with mystery; Alibi follows an American writer who has come to Venice to visit his estranged mother. Set against the atmospheric ruins of post-war Venice, as the city struggles to rebuild itself, its troubled past erupts in violent murder, and our protagonist must come face to face with trust, loyalty, and the blurred lines between good and evil.

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

Death in Venice follows Gustav von Aschenbach, an esteemed writer who becomes infatuated with a beautiful boy while staying at a ramshackle grand hotel. Aschenbach’s infatuation spirals into a consuming obsession, which feels even more poignant when set against the backdrop of the allure and decay of Venice.

Don't Look Now by Daphne du Maurier

Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier

A chilling short story from the queen of gothic suspense, Don’t Look Now is haunting fiction at its finest. It follows a grieving couple who have recently lost their young daughter to a tragic accident and seek solace in the enigmatic streets of Venice, where they encounter a series of strange and eerie events that gradually unravel their sense of reality.

Did we miss any books from our list? Let us know in the comments below.


    I would highly recommend The Carnivia Trilogy by Jonathan Holt.

    Michael Dibdin is worth an honourable mention. He wrote a wonderful series of crime mysteries set in Italy featuring Aurelio Zen. The fourth book in the series, “Dead Lagoon” is set in Venice. Zen is an impressive anti-heroic character, and all the books carry an enjoyable undercurrent of irony and dark humour.

    Every book by Donna Leon should be in this list, also Michael Dibdin’s Dead Lagoon

    You have overlooked an excellent series of books by Philip Gwynne Jones featuring British Honorary Consul and part time translator Nathan Sutherland. First book is The Venetian Game where he finds himself unwittingly mixed up in a complex Art theft. There have been seven to date

    Dead Lagoon by Michael Dibdin featuring Inspector Aurelio Zen! Wonderfully atmospheric!

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