A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery by Donna Leon
Review: Venetian Commisario Guido Brunetti takes on the case of a body found floating in a canal, a man remarkable for his appearance yet difficult to identify, in Beastly Things, the 21st mystery in this series by Donna Leon.
The man is eventually identified as Andrea Nava, a veterinarian living above his clinic after being separated from his wife. Diagnosed with Madelung disease, and treating it privately, he needed an extra income and had taken on a second job at a local slaughterhouse, ensuring that the animals were free of disease before being accepted from the farmers. But other than an extramarital affair, to which he admitted to his wife and was the reason for their separation, he lived a quiet life, with no enemies and no reason for someone to want him dead.
For the first half of Beastly Things, the murder mystery plot is merely a backdrop to this character- and setting-driven novel. Brunetti and Venice are compelling reasons to pick up this book — indeed, any book in this series — but some readers, and possibly many long-time readers, would prefer that the Commissario pick up the pace of his investigation. Though a body is found floating in a canal early in the book, until about the midway point little more is known about the man other than he suffered from a genetic disorder and was killed by three knife wounds to the back, not by drowning. Some might argue that Brunetti's apparently leisurely approach to solving crimes is one of the great appeals of these mysteries, but in some chapters the narrative veers off in directions that feel more like broad brush-stroked filler than having anything constructively to do with the storyline, characters or setting. (In the case of the latter element, much of the action here actually takes place on the mainland, in and around Mestre.)
At one point a police officer from the mainland tells Brunetti that he's lucky to work in Venice. "There's hardly enough crime worth talking about." And this investigation seems to fall into that minimalist category, a rather simple and, if murder can be imagined as such, pedestrian crime that is hardly worthy of Brunetti's attention, a case that could be easily investigated and readily solved by a first year detective with little to no experience. From this perspective, Beastly Things is a bit disappointing as it requires little effort from the Commissario other than to follow the obvious clues to their obvious conclusion.
Acknowledgment: Grove/Atlantic provided an eARC of Beastly Things for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Atlantic Monthly Press (Hardcover), April 2011
ISBN-13: 9780802119797; ISBN-10: 0802119794
The Golden Egg
Atlantic Monthly Press (Hardcover), March 2013
ISBN-13: 9780802121011; ISBN-10: 0802121012
Location(s) referenced in Beastly Things: Venice, Mestre, Italy
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Beastly Things by Donna Leon — A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Publication Date: April 2012
List Price: $25.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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