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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: 'Beastly Things'

By Donna Leon
Crime fiction (Commissario Guido Brunetti)
April 2012
Atlantic Monthly Press
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2023-6

The body of a man without identification but with a distinct medical condition is found in a canal. As Commissario Guido Brunetti discovers who the man was, and why he was killed, the well-loved Venetian policeman will have to address personal and professional issues.

Because the man has a condition that makes him stand out, Brunetti is able to identify him. The man was a veterinarian, separated from his wife and beloved son, and moonlighting at a slaughterhouse for financial reasons. So in addition to exploring other investigative avenues, Brunetti must talk to the people at the slaughterhouse. This comes as talk around home centers on unsafe food.

In a remarkable setpiece, Leon describes the tour Brunetti and Vianello take through the slaughterhouse after hours. It is gruesome but not graphic, and a master class in how to write about something utterly horrible without using extremely specific sights and actions.

The mystery of who killed the victim and why does not make a difficult case. But that is not the point of Leon's book. Nor is the point the theme so similar to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.

Rather, it is widespread and so often accepted corruption in personal and private lives that forms the foundation to Beastly Things. Whether it's Brunetti relying on the highly capable Signorina Elettra to discover information he needs or the business of any business -- to make money -- there is little innocence in his world.

Beastly Things is yet another deceptively thoughtful mystery from Leon, who once again also brings to vivid life Brunetti's Venice and the commissario's wonderful family.

©2012 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission

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