The death of an inoffensive veterinarian takes Commissario Guido Brunetti once more into the heart of the human beast.
Even after the victim is identified—and it’s a good long time before he is—the name of Dottor Andrea Nava’s killer seems less mysterious than the question of why someone, anyone, would have stabbed him in the back three times and dumped his body into a Venetian canal. Although he’s estranged from his wife, Anna Doni, she faints from either grief or guilt when Brunetti and his friend, Inspector Lorenzo Vianello, break the news to her. Clara Baroni, his assistant at the Clinica Amico Mio veterinary practice, can shed no light on his death. And although his sad little dalliance with Giulia Borelli, Director Alessandro Papetti’s assistant at the slaughterhouse where he moonlighted part time, may have threatened his marriage, it hardly seems a weighty enough motive for murder. It’s not until after a tour of the slaughterhouse brings Brunetti and Vianello up against the horrid realities behind the meat they placidly consume every day that Brunetti realizes that carcasses aren’t the most bestial presences lurking there.
Brunetti, who airily tells his wife Paola, “I don’t do ethical,” spends less time than usual (Drawing Conclusions, 2011, etc.) butting heads with his nemesis, Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta. But his conspiratorial dealings with his omni-competent assistant Signora Elettra and his suave attempts at acting dumb while he’s questioning his few suspects are equally rewarding.