As a regular visitor to Venice I must confess a weakness for Donna Leon's detective fiction. This, her latest, set in the city with her faithful detective, Brunetti, has many pleasing vignettes about the problems of coping with local bureaucracy and the endless strands of Government that costs billions without ever seeming to stamp down on corruption and environmental menace that has become ever more prevalent throughout Italy.
In this novel Leon, a committed vegetarian, takes a look at what health hazards are occurring in a mainland abattoir, the slaughterhouse on Venice having closed some years ago, and the mysterious death of a veterinary surgeon who worked there. Leon knows her Venice as one would expect from a long time resident in the City but unfortunately her plots are becoming simplistic to say the least.
The usual characters are all here: Patta, Brunetti's lazy and time serving boss whose work ethic is simply not to rock the boat with the City's power brokers and therefore remain in office; Paola, Brunetti's intellectual, liberal, university lecturer wife- most likely a meat eating edition of Leon herself- and Signorina Elettra, the beautiful and brilliant secretary to Patta who is capable of hacking into computers everywhere and, when she cannot, finding previously unmentioned friends who can render a service.
So whenever Brunetti, or indeed Leon, gets stuck a quick trip upstairs to the flower filled office of the fragrant Elettra is all that is required to get crime solving on the move again. As Leon churns out a new Brunetti every two years or so I have noticed an increasing reliance of Elettra and plots become ever less involved as the years have passed.
This is, at best a good holiday read, especially if one if visiting Venice where, ironically, all but the most most petty of crimes are almost unheard of. For all that the abattoir scenes are disturbing and will certainly encourage vegetarians everywhere and make a few meat eaters cause to pause, albeit momentarily, plus some evocative descriptions of what it is like to live on the lagoon. I just wish there had been a more complex plot and characterisation involving the suspects and a less straightforward conclusion.