Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon (Book Review)
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Set in Venice
(Veneto)
©2004

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Donna Leon

The Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery Series

Doctored Evidence

Donna's comments about the book:  "DOCTORED EVIDENCE is the penultimate one--it’s just out in paper. For four years, I was persecuted in my home by the TELEVISION, THE LOUD TELEVISION of the old bat who lived across the way from me. It came across from her third floor to my third floor. I didn’t sleep in my apartment for four summers, four summers. I had to flee to the mountains because she had THE TELEVISIONS ON! The book opens, DOCTORED EVIDENCE, with a doctor who comes to the apartment of this women who keeps her TELEVISION on very loud. And he finds her battered to death; her brains all over the floor in her apartment on the third floor in Venice. The rest of the book doesn’t matter, I’m just too happy with the beginning."
(Transcribed from a Video Interview shown on the Random House UK website, 2005)


DESCRIPTION: When the body of an elderly woman is found in her Venetian apartment brutally murdered, the prime suspect is her Romanian housekeeper. The afternoon of the murder, the maid boards a train heading back to Romania. When the maid is approached as she attempts to cross the border, she makes a run for it and is killed as she leaps onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train. With a considerable amount of money on her, and carrying papers that are obvious forgeries, the murder appears to have been solved. Case closed.
But when the old woman's neighbor returns from a business trip in London, it becomes clear that the maid could not have had time to kill the old woman before boarding her train. The neighbor confesses that out of pity she gave the maid the money. Why would the neighbor give away such a large sum to a stranger? Why is she so interested in clearing the housekeeper's name? The only investigator who believes the alibi is Commissario Guido Brunetti, who will have to go under the noses of his superiors to vindicate the Romanian and find her employer's actual killer.
As always, the indispensable hacking proficiency of the ever loyal Signorina Elettra are the perfect compliment to Brunetti's meticulous detective work. She discovers mysterious deposits in the old woman's bank account, but who made them? Do they have to do with the old woman's son, a shadowy figure whose death left secrets and whispers in its wake? It becomes clear that this was probably not a crime motivated by greed, rather that the probable motive has it roots in temptations of lust. But perhaps Brunetti is following a false trail and thinking of the wrong deadly sin altogether. As Brunetti investigates, he becomes entangled in the intrigues of Venetian bureaucracy-and eventually discovers the worst.
Donna Leon's stunning new novel sees Commissario Brunetti as fallible and human-and Venice as richly observed-as ever.
(© Atlantic Monthly Press)

BOOK REVIEW

Reading this novel was like spending a wonderful week in Venice.

Donna Leon’s thirteenth Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery novel begins with the discovery of the very brutal murder of a hateful and despised old lady. The victim had harassed her neighbors for the past five years with her blaringly loud television. The immediate suspect is the woman’s Romanian housekeeper, who was accosted crossing the Italian border on a return train trip to her native country. The suspect panicked, fled the train and was accidentally run over by another oncoming train. Brunetti was on vacation in Ireland at the time and Lieutenant Scarpa, a vindictive colleague, quickly declared the murder solved and essentially closed the case. Upon his return, Brunetti reopens the case when a conscientious women contacts the police declaring the housekeeper’s innocence and providing a plausible alibi. This sets stage for a battle of wills between Brunetti and his hated arch-rival Lieutenant Scarpa. As always, the good guys are the triumvirate of Brunetti, loyal Inspector Vianello, and the wonderfully clever Signorina Elettra, the Vice-Questore’s secretary. Signorina Elettra, using her computer hacking skills, digs up relevant information such as secret bank accounts, money transfers, and telephone records on a wide range of suspects. After Brunetti has a discussion with his wife Paola about the Seven Deadly Sins (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth), he tries to reason out which of these sins was the motive for the murder of the old lady.

Leon does a marvelous job of introducing her varied cast of interesting characters and some of the current attitudes of Venetians. These include prejudice towards Eastern European immigrants and gays; the dread of AIDS; tax evasion and suspected construction fraud. As usual, we are treated to Leon’s entertaining descriptions of Signorina Elettra’s wardrobe, Paola’s gourmet meals and the current activities of the Brunetti kids, Chiara and Raffi. In addition, we get some behind the scenes insights into the postal service, the legal profession, the schools administration and a bakery.

In DOCTORED EVIDENCE, Commissario Brunetti has become more impatient and seems to excessively browbeat witnesses and potential suspects -- no more Mr. Nice Guy. There are some memorable scenes where he locks horns with the easy-to-hate Lieutenant Scarpa.

The only disappointment was that it will be 12 months before the next Brunetti mystery is released.
- Carlo Vennarucci


Donna Leon Book List
Death at La Fenice | Death in a Strange Country | The Anonymous Venetian
A Venetian Reckoning | Acqua Alta | The Death of Faith | A Noble Radiance
Fatal Remedies | Friends in High Places | A Sea of Troubles
Wilful Behaviour | Uniform Justice | Doctored Evidence | Blood From A Stone
Through a Glass Darkly | 
Suffer the Little Children | The Girl of His Dreams | About Face
A Question of Belief | Drawing Conclusions | Beastly Things | The Golden Egg
By Its Cover | Falling in Love |  | The Waters of Eternal Youth

Interviews & Articles
MHz Networks Interview with Donna Leon
April 2013 Interview on BBC's Meet the Author
Exclusive Donna Leon Interview
Donna Leon 2003 Interview - La Maga Abbandonata CD
2009 Interview by The Gypsy's Guide Blog
La Serenissima (December 2005)
An American in Venice (Washington Post)
Amazon.de Interview
Meet The Author 2005
March 2005 Interview
New Zealand Herald Interview
Conversation about Acqua Alta (Penguin)
German Interview Translated into English
Swiss EducETH Interview (July-2004)
A Patron of the Arts of Opera and Murder
Barnes & Noble Interview
BBC Radio 4
CBS Sunday Morning
At Lunch With Donna Leon