Commissario Guido Brunetti is stumped. How can he identify the corpse found floating in a Venice canal? The body has no identification and only one shoe. Who is this mystery man? In classic Brunetti style, the details of the mystery are slowly revealed as the intrepid investigator works to uncover a web of shocking corruption and greed in the meat-processing industry of Venice.
When Brunetti is called to the morgue, he finds the body of a man who has been stabbed and thrown into the canal to drown. Brunetti realizes that the man suffers from a serious illness: Madelung’s disease, which causes a notable thickening of the upper body. There are absolutely no clues to the man’s identity or to his killer, but something is niggling at Brunetti. He has seen the man before, at the farmer’s protest about milk quotas. This tenuous connection proves to be the link that Brunetti needs to find the man’s identity.
The man turns out to be a veterinarian named Dottor Andrea Nava who worked at a slaughterhouse to supplement his income. His job was to ensure that the dead animals were healthy enough to be used for food. Here he had an affair with one of his fellow employees which caused his wife to leave him. After several visits to the processing plant, Brunetti and Vianello are thoroughly disgusted with the way that meat is processed. Did Nava find out something he was not supposed to know about the safety of the meat in this slaughterhouse? Was he killed to keep him quiet?
As the title of this novel suggests, Brunetti is obsessed with “beastly things.” His investigation into the murder of the gentle veterinarian causes him to explore the shocking realities and corruption of the meat-processing industry in Venice. He discovers that farmers sell sick and diseased animals to meat processors and pay off inspectors to look the other way. That meat ends up on store shelves and on the kitchen tables of people in Venice. The realities of the deadly food chain with diseased animals, along with the destruction of the rain forest to raise cattle, become part of the discussion at Brunetti’s kitchen table. His wife, a professor of English literature, and his two children provide a comfortable environment for the police inspector. The regular meals, the conversation and the unflinching support create a peaceful oasis in Brunetti’s complicated life.
His beloved Venice is changing. Technology is becoming a part of daily life in this ancient city on the water. When Brunetti returns to his office from the morgue to start his investigation, he finds a new computer on his desk. He has been waiting for this machine for years—so long that he has forgotten he made the request. The city suffers from masses of tourists which are both an economic blessing and a curse because of the wear and tear on the fragile environment of the jewel that is Venice.
Donna Leon’s very successful Brunetti novels portray a perceptive investigator and a warmhearted family man whose cases give the writer the opportunity to explore Venetian history, social life, economy, crime and corruption. Leon has won numerous mystery awards. Her first novel, Death in La Fenice (1982), won the Suntory Mystery Fiction Award. She has also been named one of the Fifty Greatest Crime Writers by The London Times. Readers will be thrilled with Beastly Things—not only for its exploration of Venice, but also for its strong statements about animal rights and the food chain.