Beastly Things by Donna Leon Beastly Things by Donna Leon
Narrator: David Colacci
Series: Commissario Brunetti #21
Published by Blackstone Audio on April 3, 2012
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 20 mins
Format: Audiobook
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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 can’t 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 Brunetti’s 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.

I’ve read several of the Brunetti mysteries, but not necessarily in order. Beastly Things was okay, not the best in the series and there were some things I missed. First and foremost I missed the food, the delicious meals Brunetti has, the desserts and drinks. They’re here, but not as tempting as usual. Of course, that probably has to do with the social theme she’s tackling in addition to the mystery. We have a look inside the food industry, at the slaughtering of animals and how the meat is deemed “safe for human consumption.” I don’t mind social issues in mysteries, but at times it can over-shadow the actual mystery plot. And the horrible scene at the slaughterhouse was not as disturbing as I thought it would be, in all honesty. But maybe I’ve heard too many horror stories before.

I like the characters as always and Venice is as a wonderful setting. I will say the plot held few surprises. I guessed who the killer was and was never really persuaded that there was another viable choice. Maybe the novelty of Leon’s series is wearing off. I know the people, the food and setting are wonderful, but it’s the same Venice. I need the focus to be a social issue I care about, and there does seem to always be an issue in her mysteries, or a plot that twists a bit more than this one did.

The narration was well-done. The characters were easy to distinguish and I didn’t feel there any jarring tones or “voices.” He just kind of blended into the story, which I mean as a compliment.

The ending left me a bit discombobulated. On the one hand, there is a very touching funeral scene. On the other, the whole food industry was just dropped. I’ll grant you that it was not in Brunetti’s job to be able to do anything about it, but . . I don’t know. It just felt incomplete to me somehow.

About Donna Leon

Donna Leon is the author of the international best-selling Commissario Guido Brunetti series. The winner of the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, among other awards, Leon was born in New Jersey and lived in Venice for over thirty years. She now makes her home in Switzerland.