"The Beastly Things " by Donna Leon

Beastly Things - Donna Leon

Book 21 in the Commissario Brunetti series

The appeal in this series has been the leisurely approach Commissiario Brunnetti has in solving crimes, it was refreshing to see him pick up the pace and exert himself with a lot more hands on action this time. The structure has not change a whole lot, we still experience Venice through the eyes of Brunetti and of course his wonderful family and their customs always play an important part in the staging of the mystery. This novel explores the dark side of Italy’s meat industry and covers the widespread corruption that drives it.

The mystery opens when a body of a man is discovered in a canal without any usual source of identification on him. It is his distinct medical condition that enables Brunetti and his team to eventually identify him. He is a veterinarian, separated from his wife and known to moonlight at times at a slaughterhouse. With the help of the devious Signorina Elettra, a hardened hacker, the team finds themselves slowly infiltrating the world of veterinarians and abattoirs. They soon realize there is an organised criminal side driven by human greed that may have something to do with the murder.

After reading this novel you may think twice about the food you eat and may even turn you into a vegetarian. As a counterbalance, the author adds her usual colour to the story by describing Brunetti’s leisurely lunches prepared for him by his lovely wife, pastries and pasta seems to be an Italian favourite. Ms. Leon’s characters are well developed and very believable and her plot doesn't shy away from dealing with social issues. The story is atmospheric and develops into a complex intertwining of relationships, betrayal and corrupt practices. I enjoyed the guesswork including the gruesome descriptions that came across in some of the chapters.

This is another captivating tale with Italy as a backdrop, the author’s speciality.