75 of 76 people found the following review helpful
A sadder more wrathful Brunetti who considers the moral limits of authority
, 7 April 2012
This review is from: Beastly Things: (Brunetti) (Hardcover)
"Beastly Things" is another well-written episode of the Commissario Guido Brunetti series, albeit one that seems even darker and more contemplative than usual. For me, this story transcended the crime genre into something more like an insightful, psychological novel.
We have to assume that author Donna Leon uses her wonderfully sketched protagonist, Brunetti, to voice her own concerns about social and political issues that plague his (and her) Italian home of Venice; and those concerns have multiplied over the years as traditional woes with corruption in politics have been added to by the plight of immigrants in Italy, the trafficking in women and children, rampant polluting and pollution and myriad other forms of criminal behavior that generally are based in the sins well-described by Leon's early predecessor Dante.
"Beastly Things" opens with the murder of a local veterinarian. The investigation that follows uncovers something far more sinister, something that threatens the population at large. This crime vs. general threat is deftly--even brilliantly--handled by Leon as she describes the reactions of bystanders to details of the two kinds of crime. To be sure the author's outrage, as expressed through Brunetti, is appropriately great and expanding as the case moves toward its resolution. Greed is at the bottom of all of it, and Brunetti is allowed some powerful feelings that cause him to cut ethical corners in order to punish the perpetrators.
Built into this novel--and a few others in the series--is the basic question of what measures can be taken by decent people of authority to combat pervasive corruption, venality and criminality that is protected or indulged by people of even higher authority. In "Beastly Things", the estimable Signorina Elletra is at the core of that question. Brunetti's formidable wife, Paolo, has a similar dilemma at the university where she teaches, which requires a weighing of the same question.
I think one the great things about the Brunetti series has been that continued personal growth of the protagonist as a human being--some of it coming from the normal aging process (assuming that age produces wisdom) and some of it coming from association with the secondary characters whom author Leon endows with credible and interesting personalities.
"Beastly Things" was one of those books that I liked even better after finishing, for its intelligent message of moral outrage, justice and redemption. It's one of the Brunetti books where there is very clear retribution at story's end, even if it comes with some moral compromises by the admirable commissario. Recommended. 4++
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you?