It’s a Mystery: Beastly Things, by Donna Leon

Beastly Things (Commissario Brunetti, #21)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vianello, Signorina Ellettra, and Guido Brunetti’s daughter all gave up eating meat, especially beef, some time ago, for humanitarian reasons and also because so many diseased animals end up in the food chain. The topic is beginning to give gourmand Brunetti serious pause. When he’s assigned to the case of a veterinarian whose body, punctured with stab wounds, is found floating in a canal, he’ll soon have even more reasons to watch what he eats.

Beastly Things is a fine police procedural, in which readers can follow the steps to identifying, first, a John Doe (Giovanni Doe?), and second, the motive for his murder. Brunetti is at the top of his form, as always concerned with both justice and social ethics. Over the years (this is Brunetti #21), author Leon has developed into fine art the ability to inject and weave together both themes without resorting to preaching. One of the characters, for example, embeds a message to his little boy into a bedtime story. Brunetti and Vianello are so deeply affected by their visit to a slaughterhouse that they can’t even talk about it between themselves. And her plotting and dialogue are impeccable. As always, La Serenissima is very much a character.

Leon closes this book with the most evocative, moving, and meaningful description of a funeral that I’ve ever read, or experienced, for that matter. She’s another who’s at the top of her form.

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