Beastly Things by Donna Leon

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Beastly Things by Donna Leon

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The twenty first Brunetti novel sees the Commissario dealing with the case of an unusual body found floating in a Venetian canal
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304/9h19m Date: April 2012
Publisher: William Heinemann
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0434021604

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A strangely-shaped body with multiple stab wounds was found floating in a Venetian canal and whilst the man was carrying no identification Brunetti was convinced that he'd seen him somewhere before, but with only one distinctive shoe to go on and no reports of anyone missing in the Venice area finding out who the man was was always going to be difficult. Eventually Brunetti realised that he'd seen the man in footage of a farmers' protest the previous autumn. The man, whoever he was, was distinctive - he was suffering from Madelung's Disease, where benign fatty tumours grow around the neck and upper body. He was not forgettable and Brunetti could not understand why he had not been reported missing.

The investigations eventually led Brunetti and Inspector Vianello to a slaughterhouse on the Italian mainland. I have to warn readers of a sensitive disposition that there is one point where the descriptions are particularly harrowing: even Brunetti and Vianello were shocked by what they saw. On the other hand there's an uplifting funeral, which gladdened my heart: unfortunately it didn't quite balance out the slaughterhouse! My move to complete vegetarianism came several steps closer.

The plot is excellent. As with most of Leon's later Brunetti books there's an element of corruption involved and Leon's examination of the darker side of the Italian meat industry is frighteningly believable. It's a thoughtful, thought-provoking story, perhaps shorter on action than many of the books in the series, but - to my mind - none the worse for that. Brunetti has never been portrayed as an animal lover, but there are aspects of the case which touch him deeply, to the extent that he - unusually - cuts some ethical corners.

Rather than read the book I listened to an audio download (which I bought myself) and which was narrated by David Colacci. I found his voice a little strange at first, having recently listened to Brunetti books narrated by David Rintoul, but it seemed irrational not to enjoy a book by an American author narrated by an American who is most probably of Italian descent and once I got used to the difference it was thoroughly enjoyable. Colacci has a good range of voices and I was never in any doubt about who was speaking.

Most of the Brunetti books will read as standalones, although you do get more from them if you read them in chronological order. There's no riveting continuous storyline which you'll be desperate to follow, but it does give a good feeling of continuity.

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