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Leon, Donna - 'Beastly Things'
Hardback: 304 pages (Apr. 2012) Publisher: William Heinemann ISBN: 0434021601

It's been a while since I've read a book by Donna Leon, and reading this one was almost like coming home, reminding me of how much I used to enjoy them. Interestingly, very little has changed. Commissario Brunetti, with his wife Paola and two children Raffi and Chiara still have long conversations around some delicious sounding lunches thrown together by Paola. Patta, Brunetti's boss is as ridiculous as ever, and Brunetti just as able to carefully manage him. Signorina Elettra, Patta's secretary is just as adept at finding out information using the computer, and through her network of friends. And Vianello, Brunetti's sidekick, provides a useful foil to Brunetti. Vianello is starting to learn the same computer tricks as Elettra, but still has a lot to learn.

The story revolves around the murder of a unknown man, who has an odd deformity. To begin with, as no-one is reported missing, Brunetti's first task is to identify the man. After a jog to his memory, he realises that he's seen the man before, at a farmers' protest, and then manages to find him on video footage that he watches on his own, new computer. His next task is to discover why the man was killed, and solve the murder, and as usual he does this by talking to his relatives, and colleagues. Slowly but surely he unravels the mystery.

As usual, the story is mostly set in the background of Venice, heaving with mountains of tourists, and with ample access to early morning coffee and brioche, and so on. The account of Brunetti's visit to a nearby abattoir where the murdered man worked two days a week, is a gruesome read, but the experience not quite enough to make Brunetti vegetarian. The steps towards the solving of the murder are taken clearly and logically, and everything falls neatly into place, without too much exertion. A charming read, and everything one has come to expect from this author.

Michelle Peckham, England
April 2012

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 8/04/2012 10:48