Beastly Things is the latest novel in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon, and it’s the first book I’ve read in the series. So this review is my take, with fresh eyes. Brunetti is a detective in Venice, and he’s a Venice native. It’s a police procedural that spends plenty of time with Brunetti’s family as well as with his police colleagues and the people he interviews while investigating the crime.
Brunetti is a well-read family man. It’s refreshing to read about a non-screwed-up detective without, as far as I can tell, a dark past. Brunetti is a bit tortured by his interest in his colleague Signora Elettra, the police’s resident hacker, and he’s tortured a bit by bureaucracy in the police force and government corruption, but he doesn’t seem totally overwhelmed. He seems to succeed at compartmentalizing his family life from his work life, but his work does wear on him heavily.
The actual murder investigation starts with the discovery of an unidentified body in a canal in Venice, and it takes Brunetti to the mainland as well. The title of the book relates to the concurrent story about factory farming and government inspection of meat. Vegetarianism is a big topic for at least one of his work colleagues as well as his daughter. Also, there’s a parallel between the murder investigation and Brunetti’s wife’s work at a university, but Leon doesn’t belabor it.
What I appreciated most about the book is that the book began and ended with the murder victim: the story began with his body on the autopsy table and ended with his funeral, which is a nice touch. It humanizes the story. I think overall the series sounds quite humane.
Beastly Things by Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly Press
Publication date: April 17, 2012
Source: Publisher via NetGalley