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Beasty Things
Commissario Guido Brunetti # 21
Donna Leon

Atlantic Monthly Press
2012 / ISBN-10: 0802120237
Police Procedural / Venice, Italy - Contemporary

Reviewed by LJ Roberts

First Sentence: A man lay still, as still as a piece of meat on a slab, as still as death itself.

It starts with a body found in a canal; stabbed to death, no wallet and wearing only one shoe. His physical structure should make him fairly easy to identify, and does. A man who loves animals and is separated from his wife who seems not to particularly care that her husband is dead. But it is the man's secondary profession which raises questions, not only about the murder, but about the politics and ethics of being Italian.

Let's start with the fact that I love the map on the inside covers. Maps are wonderful things. They accentuate the sense of place and allow you to "walk" with the characters.

Now let's talk about Leon and how wonderful is her style and voice. "If a man who always lies tells someone he is a liar, is he telling the truth? If no one is alive in a room, is the room empty?" it is not only Leon's narrative that is compelling, but her dialogue, which has a natural flow and intelligence particularly, in this book between Brunetti and Signorina Elettra, one of the most intriguing character currently being written. Brunetti is a true Venetian. He loves his city, his family and his food. He doesn't understand how people can stand living where they need cars. He recognizes the pervasive dishonesty in the ways things are done, even in himself.

Usually, the descriptions of food usually leave the reader hungry. However, in this book rather than compelling you to the kitchen, it could forever change what you eat. There is an extensive scene which may leave readers extremely uncomfortable, however, it is factual and shows how easily greed can dominate ethics.

The story is, as always, extremely well written. Because of the focus on social issues, which were interesting and important, I did feel the plot taking an occasional second seat.

Beastly Things is not my favorite of Leon's books, but saying it was very good, is comparable to lesser authors being excellent.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Death At La Fenice #1
Death and Judgment #4
Drawing Conclusions #20
Beastly Things #21
The Golden Egg #22
By Its Cover #23
The Waters of Eternal Youth #25

Earthly Remains #26

Reviewed 2012