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Beastly Things (Commissario Guido Brunetti Mysteries)by Donna Leon
Synopses & Reviews
When the body of man is found in a canal, damaged by the tides, carrying no wallet, and wearing only one shoe, Brunetti has little to work with. No local has filed a missing-person report, and no hotel guests have disappeared. Where was the crime scene? And how can Brunetti identify the man when he cant show pictures of his face? The autopsy shows a way forward: it turns out the man was suffering from a rare, disfiguring disease. With Inspector Vianello, Brunetti canvasses shoe stores, and winds up on the mainland in Mestre, outside of his usual sphere. From a shopkeeper, they learn that the man had a kindly way with animals.
At the same time, animal rights and meat consumption are quickly becoming preoccupying issues at the Venice Questura, and in Brunettis home, where conversation at family meals offer a window into the joys and conflicts of Italian life. Perhaps with the help of Signorina Elettra, Brunetti and Vianello can identify the man and understand why someone wanted him dead. As subtle and engrossing as ever, Leons Beastly Things is immensely enjoyable, intriguing, and ultimately moving.
"In bestseller Leon's complex, contemplative 21st Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery (after 2011's Drawing Conclusions), the Venetian police inspector must identify a man found stabbed to death and floating in a canal. Unusually, the victim suffered from a rare disease that disfigures the body and is linked to alcoholism, though the pathologist determines he wasn't a drinker. Brunetti soon discovers that the man was a veterinarian, Andrea Nava, who also worked part-time at a slaughterhouse inspecting the health of the animals brought in by the local farmers. Despite his recent separation from his wife after a tryst with a co-worker, Nava appears to have been a compassionate human being. But when Brunetti visits the slaughterhouse and begins to examine how it operates, the inspector comes to some unsettling conclusions about the murdered man, the motive, and his own life. Leon deftly blends police procedural with philosophy and existential speculation. Her intimate descriptions of Venice, where she has lived for 30 years, lend color." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Donna Leons international best-selling Commissario Guido Brunetti series has won her legions of passionate fans, reams of critical acclaim, and a place among the top ranks of international crime writers. Brunetti, both a perceptive investigator and a warm-hearted and principled family man, is one of the treasured characters of contemporary mysteries. Through her engaging Commissario, Leon has explored Venice in all its aspects: its history, beauty, architecture, seasons, food and social life, but also the crime and corruption that seethe below the surface of La Serenissima.
When the body of man is found in a canal, damaged by the tides, carrying no wallet, and wearing only one shoe, Brunetti has little to work with. No local has filed a missing-person report, and no hotel guests have disappeared. Where was the crime scene? And how can Brunetti identify the man when he cant show pictures of his face? The autopsy shows a way forward: it turns out the man was suffering from a rare, disfiguring disease: Madelung. It is a disease that usually affects alcoholics (although the autopsy shows in question was not one), predominantly affects Italians (it's less likely he was a tourist) and causes tremendous swelling of the upper body and neck. No one who saw the afflicted man would likely forget him.
With Inspector Vianello, Brunetti canvasses shoe stores, and soon discovers that the man in question was a veterinarian, Dr. Nava. Interviews with the mans estranged wife reveal that Nava had a second job at the Preganziol slaughterhouse on the mainland in Mestre. Also that he was having an affair with a co-worker, who he suspects is the beautiful and possibly ruthless Giulia Borelli.
Brunetti rarely ventures to the mainland, and is taken further out of his comfort zone upon witnessing the animals being slaughtered at Preganziol. But beyond his disgust, he suspects that something not quite right is going on out on the mainland. He interviews the other veterinarian, Meucci, who used to examine the animals to verify that they were fit for slaughter until his failing health forced him to leave. Signorina Elettra, Pattas highly efficient secretary with the skills to access all sorts of databases, digs up the fact that Meucci's credentials are shady. Perhaps it's enough to pressure him to reveal enough for Brunetti and Vianello to solve the case.
At the same time, animal rights and meat consumption are quickly becoming preoccupying issues at the Venice Questura, and in Brunettis home. Signorina Elettra and Vianello are preaching to Brunetti about the negative impact of meat consumption. And he notes his daughter Chiaras ongoing loose vegetarianism.
Paola, Brunetti's wife, comes to him with ethical constraints of a different variety. She vaguely asks about the obligations to report an ongoing crime. He gets the details out of her eventually, of course: a visiting professor at her university is stealing books. With brilliant deviousness, Paolo brings it to an end.
As subtle and engrossing as ever, Leons Beastly Things is immensely enjoyable, intriguing, and ultimately moving.
Praise for Drawing Conclusions
Remarkably, for a long-running series, Leons characters are more interesting now than they were 18 years ago. Even more remarkably, Leons own skills, honed over so many books, have grown and matured, and that makes this most recent novel her best book so far.” —Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail
Donna Leons 20th Venetian mystery featuring her compassionate police detective, Commissario Guido Brunetti, epitomizes what we treasure most about this series: a feeling for the life of a sublimely beautiful city and a sensitivity to the forces that are reshaping it.” —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
The compelling characters and complex plot in Leon's Drawing Conclusions place it among her best. The atmosphere of the city, along with Leon's sharp insights and powerful narrative, validate her often-recognized status as a master of literary crime fiction.”—Merle Minda, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
By now, with the arrival of Donna Leons 20th Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery, the Venetian police commissioner seems almost as much an institution as the citys venerable buildings.” —The Wall Street Journal
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