Atlantic Monthly, Apr 2004, 22.00, 320 pp.
In Venice, Italy, everyone who knows elderly Maria Grazia Battestini detests her. The local priest shuns her; her neighbors openly hate her; her family avoids her. Only Dottore Carlotti and her Romanian housekeeper Florinda Ghiorghiu have any consistent contact with the odious octogenarian. It is not surprising that someone murdered her and that the police immediately blame the foreign servant for committing the crime.
The police find Florinda in a second class compartment on a train leaving the country with seven hundred Euro notes in her purse. Panicking, Florinda tries to escape, but instead is killed by an on-coming train. With extremely circumstantial evidence offered by Maria's niece and the fact that Florinda was fleeing the crime scene, the Venice police declare her the killer and the case closed.
Three weeks later, graphic designer Assunta Gismondi returns from business in London to learn that Flori is dead and that she killed her employer. Assunta knows otherwise as she had given Flori the Euros and the train ticket. She reports to police Lieutenant Scarpa who is nasty and skeptical towards her. However, Commissario Guido Brunetti believes her story and follows the leads provided by her in an attempt to find the real killer though his superiors prefer the present solution.
DOCTORED EVIDENCE, the latest Brunetti Italian police procedure (see UNIFORM JUSTICE and DEATH AT LA FENICE), is a terrific investigative novel that showcases how stereotyping can hamper truly solving a case. The story line is cleverly designed so that readers can see why the brass wants the case left “solved” though counter evidence has surfaced. Brunetti is a wonderful lead character whose inquiries into who murdered the shrew make for a fine tale.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner