Books

Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

Beastly Things

A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery

by Donna Leon

In the latest novel of this celebrated series, a dead man is found in a canal, and Brunetti will need all his ingenuity and resources to find out who he is and who killed him.

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date May 01, 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9450-3
  • US List Price $25.00

About The Book

Donna Leon’s best-selling Commissario Guido Brunetti series has won her legions of passionate fans, reams of critical acclaim, and a place among the top ranks of international crime writers. Brunetti, both a perceptive investigator and a warmhearted family man, is one of the treasured characters of contemporary mystery fiction. Through him, Leon has explored Venice in all its aspects: its history, beauty, food, and social life, but also the crime and corruption that seethe below the surface of La Serenissima.

When the body of a 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 he 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 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 offers 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. As subtle and engrossing as the other Commissario Brunetti tales, Leon’s Beastly Things is immensely enjoyable, intriguing, and ultimately moving.

Praise

“As if Brunetti weren’t already steaming about the mindless, atavistic greed. . . . motivating everything from the shabby practices of the banking industry to the irresponsible dredging of the Grand Canal, Leon hits him with a crime that really tries his soul . . . So he takes his pleasures where he can—at home with his family, in his favorite coffee bars and on long walks around Venice—but after this case, the city he loves will never be quite the same for him.” —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

“Followers of the series and lovers of Venice will appreciate Leon’s fascinating details of life in this unique city. . . . This is a strong series entry.” —Dan Forrest, Library Journal

Beastly Things, Donna Leon’s 21st Commissario Guido Brunetti series set in Venice, doesn’t disappoint. All her trademark strengths shine in this swiftly paced, sophisticated tale of greed versus ethics.” —Irene Wanner, The Seattle Times

“[A] fine atmospheric novel . . . Twenty-one books on, she has lost none of her delightful skill and wit.” —Mark Sanderson, Evening Mail (UK)

“One of the most attractive serial detectives of contemporary fiction. . . . The unravelling of this intricate plot is very satisfying, yet the real pleasure of this novel lies in its evocation of a city whose shimmering beauty is set against the encroaching predations of the Mafia; a city where proper jobs are so rare that most young adults live at home with their parents, studying or wasting time; a place where your only real safety comes from having, say, four Doges in your ancestry, or a father with such powerful influence that nobody dares cross him.” —Sue Gaisford, The Independent (UK)

“Through the 21 novels in her much-loved Guido Brunetti series, Leon has tackled various social issues, from human trafficking through immigration policy and sexual abuse, always with great sensitivity toward not only the criminal aspects of the issue but also the more ambiguous toll that societal malfunction takes on individual lives. So it is again in this wrenching tale of the murder of a quiet veterinarian, the victim of a tragedy of almost classical dimensions. . . . A seemingly straightforward mystery written with such delicacy and emotional force that we can’t help but be reminded of Greek tragedy.” —Bill Ott, Booklist (starred review)

“The latest Commissario Guido Brunetti Venetian police procedural is a super whodunit . . . Brunetti and Vianello are marvelous as they piece together clues mostly using old fashion shoe leather but also ably supported by the IT gurus Signorina Elettra and Pucetti.” —The Midwest Book Review

“Brunetti is, as always, a canny commentator on Italian culture . . . However, it is in the poignant closing scene . . . where Leon’s singular talents truly shine.” —Book Page

“[Brunetti] takes his pleasures where he can—at home with his family, in his favorite coffee bars and on long walks around Venice—but after this case, the city he loves will never be quite the same for him.” —New York Times Book Review

“Brunetti’s challenges make for scintillating reading.” —Randy Dotinga, The Christian Science Monitor

“One of the most attractive serial detectives of contemporary fiction. . . . The unravelling of this intricate plot is very satisfying, yet the real pleasure of this novel lies in its evocation of a city whose shimmering beauty is set against the encroaching predations of the Mafia; a city where proper jobs are so rare that most young adults live at home with their parents, studying or wasting time; a place where your only real safety comes from having, say, four Doges in your ancestry, or a father with such powerful influence that nobody dares cross him.” —Sue Gaisford, The Independent (UK)

“It is a pleasure for a reader to settle in to one of Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti mysteries, once again to have one of those glorious Italian lunches with his wife, Paola, and their children, Raffi and Chiara, and to learn, as we do in Beastly Things, which part of the seamy underside of Venetian life Brunetti will now uncover. . . . This time, a body is found in one of the canals. It is eventually identified as a local veterinarian, Dottore Nava, well-loved by his patients and their owners. . . . The way Brunetti figures out what happened and who killed Nava is first-rate Donna Leon plotting.” —Valerie Ryan, Shelf Awareness

“Leon shows a flair for dialogue, observational wit, and behavioral nuances in the conversations between the two investigators and their interviewees. She also explores themes related to political and corporate corruption, and the ways they conflict with moral values. The fact that Leon does all this while steadily building suspense shows why she’s a master of the genre.” —Debbi Mack, Mystery Scene

“The last few pages are worth the price of admission all by themselves. But no peeking. Donna Leon is one of those very few authors whose work is popular not only among mystery aficionados but also with those who do not regularly read the genre . . . . If you have yet to experience Leon or Brunetti, there is no time like now to start, and no better place than Beastly Things.” —Joe Hartlaub, Bookreporter.com

“Written with that depth of thought about crime and humanity that characterizes the best of Leon’s work.” —Jane Jakeman, The Independent (UK)

“You have an author and a character you’ve fallen in love with. You grab the new book as soon as it hits the stores and devour it in a night, then count the weeks for the next one. It comes, you grab, you read and . . . ugh. Something’s wrong. The characters are dull, the plot rinky-dink, the ideas stretched. It’s that point where almost all series begin to fail, usually book 9 or 10. So when I tell you that Beastly Things, Donna Leon’s 21st novel featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venice police, is one of her best, it’s telling you that this writer is one in 10,000, maybe a million. No Brunetti book has ever disappointed, and this one, which takes Brunetti out of his usual zone, is riveting.” —Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail

Awards

Maclean’s Magazine (Canada) National Bestseller (#7, 4/29)

Excerpt

Brunetti thought of the vast net of rental apartments and bed and breakfasts in which the city was enmeshed. Many of them operated beyond all official recognition or control, paying no taxes and making no report to the police of the people who stayed there. In the event of the nonreturn of a guest, how likely were the owners to report his absence to the police and bring their illegal operations to the attention of the authorities? How much easier simply to wait a few days and then claim whatever the decamping client might have left behind in lieu of unpaid rent, and that’s the end of it.

Earlier in his career, Brunetti would have assumed that any self-respecting, law-abiding citizen would have contacted the police, certainly as soon as they read of the discovery of a murdered man whose description sounded so very much like the man staying in room three, over the garden. But decades spent amidst the prevarications and half-truths to which law-abiding citizens were all too prone had cured Brunetti of such illusions.