ProsA fascinating insight into the darker side of Venice
Well-written and believable
Has a smart hero, who knows both when to bend the rules, and the importance of a good lunch
ConsNo cons that I could see, except that it was too short
Doctored Evidence is
the thirteenth instalment in author Donna Leon's long-running series of
detective novels set in Venice and featuring the thoughtful and
well-read Commissario Guido Brunetti.
When an elderly, and frankly unpleasant, woman is found murdered in her apartment in the Cannareggio area of Venice, the prime suspect is her Romanian maid. The maid is soon apprehended, only to run off in a blind panic which leaves her dead under an oncoming train. It's an open and shut case, as far as the police is concerned.
However, a few weeks later a neighbour of the old woman returns from a trip to London, and it soon becomes clear that the maid could not have had time to kill her. While the police hierarchy are not keen on the idea, Commissario Guido Brunetti is quickly convinced that there is more to the case than meets the eye.
Brunetti is aided by Inspector Vianello and the scarily efficient Signorina Elettra, into whose methods Brunetti is careful not to look too closely. Cool as a cucumber, Signorina Elettra is as proficient with a lock pick as she is with a computer.
At a talk given at Foyle's bookshop in London in March 2010, author Donna Leon was asked whether Signorina Elettra would be in her next book. Leon reassured the audience: "A book without Signorina Elettra." she said, "is like a day without sunshine."
Thanks to Signorina Elettra's skills and Commissario Brunetti's instincts, a number of troubling factors come to light â€“ mysterious bank accounts, a dead son about whom no-one will talk, and the threat of blackmail.
Doctored Evidence gives a fascinating insight into a Venice different from the one seen in tourist brochures and travelogues. This is a Venice which thrives on gossip, and where the police are concerned with how they are portrayed in the press, much like any provincial city around the world.
This Venice is an insular place, where the crowds of tourists are to be endured rather than embraced, and the locals, once they're assured they are speaking to another Venetian, will slip from Italian to Veneziano. Donna Leon has lived in Venice for over twenty years, and her experience shows in her elegant writing.
The usual delights of the Commissario Brunetti novels are present in Doctored Evidence â€“ subtle writing, intriguing motivations, an appreciation of good food and warm domestic interludes with Brunetti's literature professor wife Paola and their two children, both possessed of hearty appetites.