Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon: Book Review

doctored-evidenceDoctored Evidence is the first book by Donna Leon that I’ve read. Maybe I should have started with the first Commissario Brunetti book, Death at La Fenice, because I felt as though I’d walked into a room where everyone else knew each other and I didn’t.

It started off well with the murder of the most unlikeable character Maria Battestini. At first Flori, her Romanian maid is suspected of her murder but it is clear from Signora Gismondi’s evidence that the maid could not have had time to kill the old woman. What follows is the investigation of the murder by Commisario Brunetti aided by Signorina Elettra and Inspector Vianello.

It was going well and then I began to get a bit bored as it became bogged with lots of possiblities for who killed Battestini. At the end when the murderer was revealed I only had a vague impression of the character and had to go back to read various scenes again. For me the minor characters were all a bit vague, with the exception of Signora Gismondi who came across very clearly. I would have liked more about her.

I liked Brunetti; he seems to be a maverick character. I think a Commissario is in charge of a police station or division or something similar, but at one point I wondered if his boss was Signora Elettra, only to discover that she works for Brunetti’s boss Vice-Questore Patta. Maybe this would all be clearer to me if I began with the first Brunetti book.

I liked the scenes with Brunetti’s family, his conversations with his wife and the descriptions of their meals. At one point when he tells his wife he won’t be home for a meal she replies “Wonderful”, because she can read while she eats. I also liked the way their discussion about the Seven Deadly Sins influences how he tries to work out the motive behind the murder and that he picks the wrong sin. The scenes with Lieutenant Scarpa, a most unlikeable character, where his antagonism towards Brunetti and the way Brunetti eventually deals with him are among the most vivid in the book.

In a way I was a bit disappointed with Doctored Evidence but overall I liked it enough to look for another book by Donna Leon.

This is the 17th library book I’ve read this year contributing to the Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge 2009.

3 thoughts on “Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon: Book Review”

  1. Hi there,
    Iam half way through the series of Donna’s books and I highly recommend you read them in chronological order as the characters accompany you and develop beautifully throughout the series, not to mention the role that Venice plays also. With each book you get to know the city better and discover its facets and the metaphors behind the descriptions of corruption and beauty, decay and modernity..
    Details will then become relevant and much awaited rather than tedious so try maybe the first Death at La Fenice and I gurantee you won’t be disappointed by this captivating writer and her series of gripping novels.

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  2. Avis – see the comment from Nathalie as she recommends reading Donna’s books in chronological order.

    Nathalie, thank you – I thought that might be so.

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