Beastly Things

The literate Italian detective, Brunetti, once again solves a crime in Venice in Beastly Things, one of Donna Leon’s earlier books, now in paperback. Full of descriptions of the beautiful city as well as comments on the local politics and the tourists, Leon’s Beastly Things is a treat for fans of her sophisticated style.

A veternarian with an obscure disease is found dead in a canal, and the plot leads to a stockyard in the city where animals are slaughtered. The pursuit of the villain is fun, but my favorite parts are Leon’s musings through the voice of Brunetti. Among my favorites:

“Computers failed to interest Brunetti: yes, he used them and was glad of being able to do so, but he was always much happier to send this green-clad hunter off in pursuit of the game that proved too elusive for his limited skills. He simply could not work up any enthusiasm for the concept, had no desire to spend endless hours sitting in front of the screen and seeing what he could make the computer do for him.”

“Having finished the Agamemnon and in need of a break before continuing that familiar saga, Brunetti did what he often did in such circumstances: he picked up the “Meditations of Marcus Aurelius” and much like the way devout Christians were said to consult the Bible, opened it at random. It was rather like playing a slot machine, he had to admit: Sometimes what came up was sententious pap that led to nothing, and certainly provided no riches. But sometimes the words came at him like a stream of coins, flooding out of the trough in the slot machine and splashing across his feet.”